The Nativity of the Lord
December 25, 2021
And the Word became flesh / and made his dwelling among us ….
When a person gives someone a gift, if it’s a good gift, it reveals something about the person to whom it’s given. Christmas is about accepting a gift from God the Father.
One of the most beloved songs of the Christmas Season ponder what sort of gift this is. It asks: “What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?” In the next verse we hear: “Why lies he in such mean estate, where ox and ass are feeding?” What does this gift of the Christ Child say about us who are on the receiving end of this gift?
What child is this? We ourselves speak the answer to that question at every Sunday Mass when we stand and profess the Creed. About our “Lord Jesus Christ” we profess that He is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God … consubstantial with the Father”. This tiny infant is God, and the fact that this tiny gift is God tells us something important about why the Father gave this gift to us.
On the other hand, just a few lines later in the Creed, we also say that Jesus “by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” These words describe what today’s feast is all about. That’s why every year, on the feast of Jesus’ birth, when we profess those words of the Creed, we don’t just bow as we do on Sundays: we genuflect as we say these words. But we also need to keep in mind that these lines of the Creed also tell us something important about why the Father gave this gift to us.
Jesus Christ is true God and true man. From the first moment of His conception, Jesus was fully divine and fully human. Still today as He sits in Heaven at the Father’s Right Hand, Jesus bears a divine nature and a human nature. These two truths together tell us what we need to know about the first and greatest Christmas gift: that is, the person of Jesus Christ.
These two natures which Jesus bears within Himself are the means and the end of what God the Father wants for us who are His adopted children. The gift of Jesus is the means and the end of our life. Jesus became human because we are sinners; and because Jesus is God we can become sharers in His divinity. Jesus became tiny at Bethlehem so that we could become great in Heaven.
At the Annunciation, Jesus became human—the eternal Son of God took on flesh and blood within Mary’s womb—to help us overcome the greatest stumbling block preventing God’s plan for our lives from coming true. Overcoming this stumbling block is our greatest need in this world.
Our greatest need is salvation: the forgiveness of our sins. That is why Jesus accepted the agony of His Passion and Death: to open the gates of Heaven for us, by offering up His Body and Blood, soul and divinity. In humility, Jesus was born into this world, so that some thirty years later he could die to open the Gates of Heaven. As the saying goes, “the wood of the crib is the Wood of the Cross.”
Jesus wants us to accept the gift of His Cross, to wash away our sins. But as great as the gift of His Death on Good Friday is, we must not confuse this means with the end. That is to say, on the Cross Jesus offers up His Body and Blood in sacrifice for us: to wash away our sins, to cleanse us, to prepare us. But what does the gift of His Cross prepare us for?
New life. Divine life. The life of God the Son. This is the end, the goal, the reason for Jesus being born for us today.
God the Father sent His divine Son down to earth so that the Father might adopt each of us as His children. Through grace, each us becomes one member of Christ’s Body, so that we might live on earth, and die, and live in Heaven, in Christ.