Even the story of the Visitation in today’s Gospel is accessible as the sharing of joy between two expectant mothers. (The unbeliever, of course, will completely ignore the detail about the prophetic action of the unborn John the Baptist in his mother’s womb.)
For the Christian, however, the celebration of Christmas is more than the commemoration of the birth of a child. It is also much more than just a Christianized celebration of the winter solstice: it is the special annual celebration of a key moment in the history of our salvation.
Nor is it just an abstract theological remembrance: it is an opportunity for us to stir again the emotional embers of our faith, to appreciate afresh how wonderful it is that Christ has come among us.
This isn’t just the birth of a baby. This isn’t just a milestone in salvation history. This is the arrival of the One whom we love and who loves us beyond our ability to express.
That is why a selection from the Song of Songs is an optional first reading today. In the context of Christmas, this ancient wedding song expresses the intense rapture that the soul feels at the coming of Christ: the One whom we love and who loves us.
The voice of my beloved!
behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains,
skipping upon the hills.
My beloved is like a roe or a young hart:
behold, he standeth behind our wall,
he looketh forth at the windows,
shewing himself through the lattice.
My beloved spake, and said unto me,
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone;
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds is come,
and the voice of the turtle (dove) is heard in our land;
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs,
and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell.
Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret places of the stairs,
let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice;
for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
Amen! Welcome, dearest Lord Jesus!