Christmas Day, Year C
Text: Isaiah 52:7-10, Hebrews 1:1-6, John 1:1-18
Today, Christmas, we celebrate God coming to us in a new way. To explain this a little, I’ll have to go way back to Creation and then return to today, and you get it all in five minutes or less.
Jesus was a baby boy like any other, even though divine and sinless. Isaiah, elsewhere, writes that he had no form or majesty that we should look at him. Paul writes that he emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. Why did God resort to this? Well, the short answer is, because he loves us, but it’s worth exploring this a little more, in order to understand how we are called to respond to that love.
John’s Gospel recalls us to the beginning: he writes of the Word through whom God created the universe, and of how that transcendent Word was made flesh in Christ. When we humans were created, we were in the image and likeness of God, and did not need such drastic measures. With sin, however, we corrupt that image, and debase ourselves from what God intended us to be. God could, of course, leave us to our own devices: it is our choice that led us to where we are, and that choice has its natural consequences in our suffering. But God sends herself in the Son instead, and by taking the form of a fallen man, exalts all of fallen humanity. As St. Athanasius put it, the Son of God became man so that we might become God.
It is not outward glory that Isaiah proclaims in the messenger who announces peace, but the radiant glory of God who dwells in him. Our eyes see Jesus the baby, not the glorified son of God surrounded by choirs of angels: those things are only seen by the heart. If we look at the world that way, we look with love, and that love sees God’s glory everywhere.
So how do we sign up for this? By following Jesus’ example in our lives, and in living our humanity fully. By recognizing God in Jesus, we take the first step towards recognizing God in ourselves and in each other person. Every part of ourselves, of every baby, every child, every woman and man is Christ. Mother Teresa said, I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?
This is the link between the commandments to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Seeing God in Jesus, whose every word and action expresses and invites love, we learn to love God. We can see Jesus in ourselves and each other because he took our form, not considering it beneath him. When we look at ourselves and each other this way, seeing, as the Letter to the Hebrews puts it, the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, we naturally express love. This is the vision from which Mother Theresa drew her seemingly inexhaustible reserves of strength.
By his incarnation today, Christ gives us the first and best Christmas present ever: the capacity to become God, each in our own way. Have a very merry and happy Christmas, and I’ll leave you with the message that I’ve attached to the end of my e-mails for the past four years: Divine love expresses itself in infinite ways. Find the ways in which you can become a bearer of that love.