The Incarnation: Beyond the Obvious
There has been something inexplicable going on somewhere deep within me this Advent. I am finding it difficult to put it into words, but Christmas, its true meaning, and all its implications is overwhelming me. Of course, Christmas is the commemoration of Jesus incarnation into the world by which human redemption has been accomplished. I am not saying that this in itself is not a big deal. I am saying that I am being pulled to that which is beyond the obvious. On the one hand, Christmas is what humanity has been awaiting. On the other hand, not just humanity, time and space, the earth, all of creation, the entire universe, heaven, and hell, all of it has been touched by the incarnation. Nothing remains untouched by the birth of Jesus Christ the Messiah and the Son of God.
As I said, I am struggling to put my sentiments into words. In three points, here is a very inadequate and imperfect rendering of my thoughts.
Every Human Person – A Christmas!
Christmas is the commemoration of God coming into the world as a human person. But God did not become human for its own sake. Athanasius, a 3rd century Church Father said it in these provocative words: “God became man that man might become God.” Simply put, God became human so that humanity might become divine.
This has implications beyond the obvious. In becoming human, Christ has raised the dignity of the human person. Humanity has been touched by God. Humanity has been sanctified by God. Humanity has been saved by God. Consequently, every human person, already created in the image and likeness of God, now has a renewed divine dignity. At Christmas, divinity is infused into humanity in a radically new way. Know this – child or adult, man, woman, or transgender, black, white, or brown, citizen, refugee, or immigrant, gay, straight, or queer – every human person, including our enemy, is touched, sanctified, and redeemed by God. Not a single person is left untouched by the immense love of our God.
The practical implication of this Christmas reality is that we approach every human person, no matter who they are, with a sense of divine awe!
Every Moment – A Christmas!
Perhaps, I won’t burst your Christmas bubble if I said that even though we celebrate Christmas on the 25th day of December, we really do not know the day of Christ’s birth. Historically, nobody for certain knows the year, the date, or the time Jesus was born. For some this is a problem. For me, it points to something beyond the obvious.
God is eternal and outside the realm of time and space. But by entering time and space, God touched, sanctified, and redeemed time, space, and history.
This has implications. Christmas is not about a day. Christmas is not about the 25th day of December. Every day, every hour, every moment is Christmas. The greatest disfavor we do to the Christ-event is to restrict Christmas to a day, to a time, and to a season. On that first Christmas, whenever it was, eternity touched time, space, and history.
This is the practical implication. Today and every day, this hour and every hour, this moment and every moment, live like it is Christmas, because every day, every hour, every moment, is Christmas.
This Earth – A Christmas!
We may not know the exact date or the exact time of Christ’s birth. But there is no ambiguity about Jesus’ place of birth or where he lived and worked. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. We know the places where he lives, worked, died, and was buried. This has
This has implications beyond the obvious. All of creation, the entire universe, and our earth was qualitatively different before Christ stepped into it. In the words of the great theologian and scientist Teilhard de Chardin, “The Incarnation is a making new, a restoration, of all the universe’s forces and powers; Christ is the Instrument, the Centre, the End, of the whole of animate and material creation; through Him, everything is created, sanctified and vivified.” Even though God created the earth and all in it and around it, by his incarnation, death and resurrection, every created reality has been touched by God, sanctified by God, and redeemed by God in a radically new.
We are part of God’s creation. We are in God’s universe. Our earth is especially sacred because Christmas happened on this earth. Our earth is especially holy because God walked the face of the earth. Our earth is holy because it held the body of the crucified Lord. Our earth is holy because the risen Lord unsealed the tomb and set the earth and humanity free.
Here is the practical implication. If Christmas means anything to us, we must uphold the sanctity of the earth and everything in it and around it. This is the earth that held the body of Christ. Let us tread carefully on the same earth upon which Christ trod. For this reason alone, we must preserve and nurture the sanctity of the earth.
Let me conclude with this. Think about the grandeur of the incarnation upon which I just reflected. And now think that all that was in a tiny, little, helpless, baby. In every Eucharist, all that I just described is in a simple piece of bread and some ordinary wine. What shall we call this? We call this Christmas.
I wish all of you a blessed, holy, and peaceful Christmas!
- Fr. Satish Joseph