After a long time away from the province, a group of cousins came to visit their grandparents living in the farm. Seeing them at the backyard working on their plot of vegetables, the children rushed to lovingly embrace the old folks. The grandparents were surprised and overjoyed to see the kids, but on receiving their embraces, they felt undeserving. “Stop that, children. We are sweaty and smelly. We don’t want you to have dirt on your clothes.”

An embrace is one of the warmest, most assuring, and most encouraging gestures of love and support. You do not embrace just anybody you meet on the streets. It is rare that you embrace a stranger except for some outburst of excited emotions. We intentionally embrace the people we love, care for, and respect.

There are people who do not get an embrace. There are many people who long for an embrace. Beggars at the roadside, homeless street people, children in orphanages, abandoned old folks, prisoners, homebound sick people – don’t you think that these following people hope that one day, somebody will stop and notice them, speak to them, and wrap their arms around them in love?

At Christmas time, we remember the greatest embrace the world has ever experienced. God, in his Son Jesus the Lord, embraced all humanity with perfect love and compassion. The Incarnation, God becoming flesh, is a lofty mystery, but its meaning can be comprehended simply by the analogy of an embrace.

We are sinners, flawed and imperfect people. We are conscious of the dirt and garbage in our lives. Our transgressions are always before us. Like the farming grandparents, we can say we are unworthy of an embrace. But in his goodness, in his unequalled love, God opened his arms and enveloped us in fatherly acceptance and forgiveness.

Christmas is a constant reminder that though we do not deserve divine attention because we have strayed away from the Lord, the Lord has decided to express his love for us by embracing the whole of our earthly life (our birth, our growth, our death), our human poverty, so that one day he can share with us his glory.

Let us take some time to pray and reflect these days, imagining that God is embracing us and whatever situation we find ourselves in. May we allow him to do so and return the gesture, in our imperfect and limited way.  Just feel his love… and give out a Christmas hug to a needy one!