We are about to begin a very beautiful season in the Church’s year as we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation, God becoming man in the womb of the Virgin Mary — the Solemnity of Christmas. What we celebrate is a clear reminder of how God deeply desires to be with us. The Son of God became a child born into a human family. Through the Incarnation, God has demonstrated how he chose to experience human life so that he could not only be close to us, but so that he could save us. This reality calls forth from us deep reflection, because as Catholics, it expresses and gives clear focus in how we are to live from this reality in every day life.
In other words, it must extend far beyond just this time of the year. The real meaning of Christmas is part of the Christian past, but must also be part of our present and future. The real meaning of Christmas defines who we are and to what the birth of this child calls us. This gift should continue to impact us every day in how we choose to follow Christ. Our whole identity as human beings is bound up in this mystery of Christmas. But this birth is only a moment in the unfolding of God’s plan for both Christ and us.
For Christ, God’s plan was taking on your sins and mine, and the sins of all humanity in an ultimate act of love. The manger became the cross where eternal love was born into the world. For each of us God’s plan will continue to unfold as we continue to accept the grace and the gift of Christmas. A continuous reflection on this beautiful event will never cease to move us into a deeper relationship with the Lord.
Christmas is so often diminished to a one-day celebration, like a holy day or a Sunday which has a birthday party included with it. For many, Christmas ends when the decorations are taken down shortly after Christmas Day and life returns to its wintry normal. As the world moves into “ordinary time,” the birth of our Savior – the greatest expression of the Father’s love – will be just a memory. If we allow the Christmas reality to settle deeply into our hearts, we recognize more fully the power of this gift of incarnation and how it calls from us a response.
In the words of Pope Francis, “The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world, based on might and wealth; it is the power of love. It is the power which created the heavens and the earth, which gives life to all creation: to minerals, plants and animals; it is the force which attracts man and woman, and makes them one flesh, one single existence; it is the power which gives new birth, pardons faults, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil into good. It is the power of God. This power of love led Jesus Christ to strip himself of his glory and become man; it led him to give his life on the cross and to rise from the dead. It is the power of service, which inaugurates in our world the Kingdom of God, a kingdom of justice and peace.”
In other words, this love and its power awaits each of us. In fact, it comes looking for us. In the birth of Jesus, God is truly close to each one of us, and he wants to meet us, wherever we are in this relationship. He desires to lead us to himself. There is always more for him to share with us. He is that shining star, that true light, which dispels the darkness that envelops our lives and the whole world.
The following Christmas card verse says it well: “Love has a name – Jesus; Love has a place – Our hearts; Love has a story. And it is not finished yet.” As we contemplate this mystery of love, the Lord draws us deeper into this relationship, and yes, it will shake the very foundation of our lives again and again, but in this way: we will come to know LOVE in a deeper way; we will come to love in a deeper way; the world will then be transformed by our love in a new way. Christmas is a timeless story, a story without end to be carried and lived through the ages.
As we celebrate this gift of Christmas, let us gaze upon this baby born into poverty with humility and trust. With the wise men and shepherds, let us enter into the real Christmas, bringing to Jesus all that we are and hope to be. Then we will enjoy the true experience of Christmas – the beauty and gift of being loved by a God who chose to enter into our world. Our response to this gift can only be: Thank you. Thank you, because I can never repay you!
Merry Christmas to all!