“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).
If there are ever words to meditate and ponder upon these are them! The danger is becoming complacent or indifferent to the reality that they present, or to the idea that this is just any other day that we just endure and go on to the next day. Instead, may we embrace the promise and invitation they are meant to convey to us as individuals, as a people, and for all of creation.
The Word, Logos in the Greek, who was, who is, and who always will be, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, has become one with us. We are the minutest of minutest speck of specks present in the whole of the cosmos. And yet, we have been graced by the presence of God who became man for each and every one of us, each individual person, so we can be one with him. He became human that we might become divine through our participation in his life.
The Mystery we celebrate today is that God took on flesh, becoming fully human, while at the same time, remaining fully divine. He did not just appear to be a man for a time and cast off his humanity like a cloak. The Son was conceived in the womb of Mary, developed as you and I did, and when born let out a gasp and a cry indicating that the savior was born to us. Joseph and Mary gazed in wonder at the gift of their son, the gift of the Incarnation for the whole world.
Christmas Day is the celebration of new life. Not just the birth of any baby, but through his coming into the world, a new beginning for humanity and creation. We do not just celebrate the baby who would become a great teacher and moral template, but the coming of our Savior, the reality and the hope that we may be wounded and even a bit been broken, but not undone, not unmade, not destroyed but saved from our slavery to sin. God’s grace is greater than our worst mistakes, misjudgments, and most grievous faults.
Though darkness may appear to reign through the midst of another wave of increasing cases of COVID, ongoing wars, political and racial division in our country, and though there may be tempted to fight our anxiety, fear, and desperation, today we celebrate that “A light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). This is a day to rejoice, to reconcile, a day to recommit to the light, to the baby who would later call himself, “the way, and the truth, and the life” (cf. Jn 14:6).
Let us embrace the gift of our humanity, the gift of our diversity and interconnectedness, the gift of our families, biological and beyond, as we embrace this baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, for he shows to us the truth and realization that: “We cannot save ourselves. We can only open ourselves to the hope that comes to us from without, from others, ultimately from one Other” (Lohfink 2014, 255). The One whose birth we celebrate today: “The Light of the human race” (Jn 1:4).
Photo: The Nativity scene before our altar at our parish of St Peter.
Lohfink, Gerhard. No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014.