“Yahweh gave birth to me at the beginning, before the first acts of creation. I have been from everlasting, in the beginning, before the world began.”Proverbs 8: 22-23
We are almost there. Christmas is just a few days away. However, I notice that some people forget that the Christ whose birthday as Jesus we celebrate existed long before the beginning of time.
The Gospel of John in the first chapter lets us know that this Christ we celebrate did not come to exist at a particular time in our history, but that Christ – the Wisdom, the Word of God – existed with God from all eternity. Quoting the Franciscans, “Christ was the first idea in the mind of God.” God through Christ has been intimately involved with creation from the beginning.
John’s Gospel gives us the eternal back-story of Christ. As we come to recognize the mystery of the Incarnation – God taking on a fully human life through Jesus — we recognize that Jesus is the fullness of God’s revelation to human beings. Through the ministry, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God communicates with us directly and no longer through intermediaries. Christ Jesus is fully human and not only shows us how we can be fully human as God intends us to be, but also shows us what God is like.
Jesus, the Christ, is, was and will be the light that comes into the world to enlighten everyone. He is God who penetrates our world and becomes part of us, taking on all our humanness. He is the Word/Wisdom of God become flesh. He enters the darkness of the world, going to the darkest places to be with us, and brings hope for change.
The doctrine that God became flesh, fully human, is one of the essential doctrines of Christianity. It is what sets Christianity apart from all other religions. We Catholics take the Incarnation seriously and it spills over into everything. We take our own embodiment seriously because of the Incarnation. We value all human life from conception to the final passage out of life. We recognize that God is revealed in the ordinariness of human life, and so our rituals, liturgies and sacraments have an earthiness to them.
And so, we love our Nativity Scenes. We like to look at them and touch them. We insist on having animals as part of the scene, because we realize that all of creation rejoices in the presence of God. Each Nativity Scene reminds us that Jesus was born as an outsider. He was born outside the city, beyond the notice of anyone of importance. Most of his life was spent in quiet anonymity. In his ministry he was drawn to other outsiders, especially to those who were rejected by society and seen as less deserving, less worthy than others. But it is in his plain humanity that God shines through.
The world celebrates Christmas with us, even when many do not really believe in Christ any more than they believe in Santa Claus. Nevertheless, I like to watch Christmas movies because they reveal human hearts. These movies often reveal much about our common human hunger for joy, peace, caring, relationships, generosity, forgiveness, kindness, love, reconciliation, and conversion of heart.
Naysayers may dominate our conversations most of the year, but at Christmas there is a renewed hope and a belief in the possibility for a new and better life for us all. When we who are Christians embrace our life in Christ we receive “the power to become the children of God.” In that power we begin to overcome the darkness and heal the world, helping to fill the hunger of human hearts.
My beloved ones, allow Christmas to change you every time it comes around; become more like this Jesus we celebrate.