The question of Christmas is familiar to all of us - in fact we sing it: What child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping? Who is this child?
The "charm" of Christmas, what is sometimes horrendously called the "magic" of Christmas, and the commercialism of Christmas frequently submerge the need of the human heart to answer the question of Christmas. And beyond this challenge, we face almost daily the difficulty posed by the ACLU and other groups who seek to take the religious dimension out of Christmas, so that it is a more acceptable "holiday" to a secular culture.
All of this is done in the name of the false claim about separation of Church and State, about which I have written previously. It truly is a challenge to find the quiet, the time, the place to respond to that deepest human need to answer the question of Christmas: Who is this child?
This child is God made man
Quite simply the answer is He is God made man. He has taken upon Himself a truly human nature without becoming a human person. With a truly human nature, He remains one divine person that is, He is God - with - us - "Emmanuel."
St. John expresses this most clearly at the beginning of his gospel when he tells us that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The second person of the Blessed Trinity came into the world according to the flesh to accept all of its limitations especially suffering and death to prove without question the Father's love for us - "God so loved the world that He gave His only Son."
This Son, this second person of the Blessed Trinity, was there when the Trinity created the world, when its foundations were put in place, when the "containers" for the oceans and seas, and the snow and the rain were fashioned.
As we read through the first chapter of the book of Genesis we should never forget the proclamation of St. John that everything that came to be, came to be in Him, and everything that came to be in Him had life, life for the light of all.
In the book of Job God asks Job, Were you there when I laid the foundation of the earth and set in place the containment of the seas? Tell me! All of us are put in our place and humbled by that question, but Jesus Christ could answer a resounding yes to that question. Not only was He there as the second person of the Blessed Trinity but along with the Holy Spirit He was active in this outpouring of creative love by the Father.
It is this divine person with a divine nature and human nature who pitched His tent among us on that first Christmas at Bethlehem accepting all of the limitations of a human birth, accepting the poverty of His surroundings, accepting being treated like a baby and then like a child subject to the discipline of Mary His mother and Joseph His foster father, accepting ordinary daily work for roughly 30 years of His life before the Father and the Holy Spirit came upon Him at His baptism at the Jordan River and revealed His mission.
As He preached the Kingdom of God He was mistreated, ridiculed, many turned away from Him, and there were plots and attempts to put Him to death. And then at the end He gave Himself over to the agony of the cross, to the death suffered by the worst of criminals through the torture of the cross.
That is almost the complete answer to the question of Christmas: What child is this? The one through whom everything that came to be had its being, the one who was with the Father when He laid the foundations of the earth, that only begotten Son who wound up dying a criminal's death. The fact that the Son took flesh meant that He would have to die and this necessity of His human nature, which He freely accepted, makes Him our eternal sacrificial priest.
Christ of Christmas is so much more
The Christ of Christmas is so much more than the "charming" image of a cute little baby in a diaper might suggest. The Christ of Christmas is indeed God with us, God's only begotten Son who showed His love by suffering and dying according to the flesh.
The end of the Christmas story of course is that our Savior rose, establishing for every human being who has ever or will ever live, the truth that He is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father, so that in the end every eye shall see Him, even of those who pierced Him, and every knee shall bend before Him in Heaven and on earth and under the earth.
And so with the wise men this Christmas come let us adore the child, knowing full well the answer to the question of Christmas: What child is this? The answer begins with words of truth and ends with silent awe-filled adoration. Come let us adore! Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Thank you for reading this. May every blessing of Christmas be with you and yours in abundance and may the new year bring you and yours peace, safety, health, and above all deeper faith.
Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
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