We have spent the whole season of Advent preparing for this holy and joyful day, the Birthday of the Savior of the world. And yet, now that he has arrived, we are still overwhelmed by the mystery we ponder. For on Christmas Day we suddenly come face-to-face with God – and his face is that of a little child.
The Letter to the Hebrews explains something of the mystery we celebrate today. In times past, as countless generations of Jews longed for the coming of the promised Messiah, God was speaking to them “in partial and various ways” through the prophets. But with the birth of this child, a whole new era begins, the “last days.” Now the Father speaks to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. The Son “is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, … who sustains all things by his mighty word.”
The Word actually became flesh nine months earlier, in secret, in the womb of Mary of Nazareth. Now, for the first time, the Word-made-flesh comes forth into the light of day and can be seen. He himself is light, “the true light, which enlightens everyone.” This is the light that scatters all darkness, but it also dazzles our minds. How can this helpless infant be the almighty God? How can the eternal Son of the Father be born of a woman? The Messiah is here, revealing the power and glory of the Father, yet as he lies before us in the manger, he seems so weak and insignificant. It is precisely in this surprisingly humble way that God has chosen to come among us.
If we rely on our natural perceptions alone, we may still enjoy Christmas, but only as a sentimental holiday. The main point of Christmas, the reason why all creation rejoices today, is not that another cute little baby is born but that God is with us. The baby we can see with our eyes, but the presence of God we can only see with the eyes of faith. The Incarnation is not something we can figure out. It is a mystery to ponder deeply and to celebrate with joy and praise. In this, we follow the example of the holy angels. They did not know how God could ever lower himself to such a condition, so far below their own angelic dignity. God did not choose to become an angel. He never said to any of the angels, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you.” But he does call this human child his Son. And he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him.”
The angels do indeed worship the newborn Jesus. The incomprehensibility of the mystery does not stop them because they wholeheartedly accept what God has revealed. At the announcement that the Lord is now “an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger,” multitudes of angels burst into joyful song: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. We join them in song whenever we pray the Gloria at Mass. Christmas is a time for joyful songs. This is why we have so many beautiful Christmas carols. It was prophesied that when the Lord revealed himself, the nations would break out together in a new song. “Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done wondrous deeds… All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.”
The joy of Christmas has not yet penetrated all the ends of the earth. There is still “no room for him” in many parts of the world and in many hearts. Even Bethlehem, where the divine light first shone and where choirs of angels rejoiced, is still a troubled and divided land. Throughout the world Christians are suffering from horrific atrocities and persecution. As we rejoice in wonder at the coming of the Lord, we pray for all who are suffering, and beg the Lord to shine his light on all people. Our song of joy is also a prayer: May every heart all over the earth prepare to receive the King of Kings. Joy to the world! The Lord is come! Let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.
Have my spiritual preparations of Advent made a worthy room for Jesus in my heart? Am I struck with awe as I behold face-to-face my Almighty God as a humble Baby? What sacrifices can I offer today for all those who are suffering because of their Christian faith?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.