Glory to God in the highest! Today a Child is born. Although he looks like any one of the countless millions of unnoticed, poor children born into the world, he is no ordinary child! This is God himself who has come as our Savior! His coming is announced by an angel to simple, unnamed shepherds, the poorest class of people of that time.
On these ordinary people shines the glory of God, and the angel speaks to them: “Do not be afraid; for I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:10-12). The shepherds go to Bethlehem and find, in the form of a tiny newborn baby, the Savior of the world!
If we really think about this, it is mind-blowing, too great for our minds to grasp. God and man are united in this little baby. The God whom the entire world cannot contain is completely contained, completely present in this helpless infant. Many people reject and ridicule the idea. Some think it is merely a fairy tale for children. Others find it blasphemous to say that the all-powerful God would reveal himself in this lowly way. We, however, believe it as a divinely revealed truth: This Child is God!
We have spent the whole Season of Advent preparing for this holy and joyful day. Now it has arrived, and we are still overwhelmed by the mystery we ponder. Words alone are too limited to celebrate Christ’s birth. In order for the event to sink in, we need to use all our senses: our hearing, our sight, our smell, our taste and our touch. That is why we have songs, poems, decorations, lights, crèches, special foods, and all sorts of beautiful traditions to help us celebrate this mystery.
We especially need to ponder the Scriptures. In St. John’s Gospel, we are given a most profound description of who this Child is: “In the beginning was the Word, / and the Word was with God, / and the Word was God. / He was in the beginning with God. / All things came to be through him, / and without him nothing came to be…. And the Word became flesh / and made his dwelling among us.” This Word has come as a little Child. He comes to invite us to know him; to reveal the Father to us.
John also tells us that the Word was already in the world, “but the world did not know him.” Is this not an accurate description of us at times, and of our world? The joy of Christmas has not yet penetrated all the ends of the earth. There is still “no room for him” in many places (cf. Lk 2:7). Christians are suffering terrible persecution. Even in Bethlehem, where the divine light first shone, darkness and divisions persist.
We ourselves often fail to welcome the light. God is already with us, yet we do not recognize him. We expect him to act in certain ways, to do more, to be “bigger.” When he does not fulfill our expectations, we assume he is not present or not interested, so we begin to look elsewhere for answers to our problems. Christmas reminds us that God is present, but not as we could ever have expected. The main point of Christmas, the reason why all creation rejoices today, is not that a sweet baby is born, but that God is with us – a God who empties himself, makes himself little, and reveals himself to those who are poor and humble.
To grasp the real meaning of Christmas, we too must empty ourselves, become little; we must become more like him. We do not grasp the mystery of the Incarnation by rising up and figuring it out. God is too big for our minds: “No one has ever seen God.” Yet he reveals himself to the humble: “The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.” This is the wonder that we ponder deeply today, gazing with eyes of faith upon God made man.
How can I respond to those who believe that the almighty God would never reveal himself as a lowly child? How do songs, decorations, lights, crèches, and beautiful traditions help me to celebrate Christmas? Why cannot God fully reveal himself to me if I am not humble and poor in spirit?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 20, no. 1. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.