We gather today to celebrate the birth of our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. If our celebration were merely a sentimental time of good feelings or a cultural event, it would provide nothing more than a passing distraction from familiar problems that are often well beyond our control. Thanks be to God, Our Lord’s Nativity is not a momentary escape from reality, but an invitation to enter into reality itself and find the healing of our humanity in Him.
If we are ever tempted to think that God is somehow remote from or unconcerned with our brokenness and pain, we need only look at the conditions in which the Son of God was born in order to be delivered from such delusions. Perhaps we have heard the story so many times that we no longer see the details clearly. The One Who is fully divine and fully human was born in a cave that served as a barn, and He had an animal’s feeding trough for His crib. He came into the world like a homeless person as the Son of a transient Jewish couple forced by the occupying Roman authorities to take a long, difficult, and dangerous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The Theotokos endured the ordeal in the latter stages of pregnancy, accompanied by her elderly guardian Joseph. Since the wicked Herod wanted to kill the Messiah from His birth, the family fled for their lives in Egypt. Their situation was as precarious as that of refugees today who risk everything to escape from death at the hands of brutal, oppressive regimes. No doubt, some refugee babies are born in barns along the side of the road to this very day.
In order to enter into the holy mystery of Christmas, we must allow our hopes, fears, and assumptions to be called into question by the Lord Who became a vulnerable baby born in the most dangerous of circumstances of the sort that remain all too common in our world of corruption. Today we celebrate nothing less than the eternal Word, Who spoke the universe into existence, humbling Himself beyond all human understanding in order to heal every dimension of the human person. He does so in order to make us all participants in His divine and holy life by grace. He is born of His Virgin Mother to make us sons and daughters who shine brightly with the divine glory and share even now in the peace of His Kingdom. He has united divinity and humanity in His own Person for the sake of all who bear the divine image and likeness. This feast reveals both Who God is and who we are called to become. Its meaning infinitely surpasses mere sentimentality as a distraction from “the real world.” Indeed, it is an entrance into what is ultimately real and true.
The Lord lived and ministered as He was born with humble, self-sacrificial love for the blessing of all. He is not a Savior for only certain types of people according to worldly divisions such as nationality, race, or politics. The New Adam is born to set right all that has gone wrong in our world of slavery to the fear of death. Christ’s coming does not operate according to the usual ways of that world, but subverts its boundaries and divisions, often turning them completely upside down. Angels proclaimed His birth to lowly shepherds, not to the high, mighty, and powerful. Persian astrologers, who were certainly not Jews, traveled a great distance to worship this Messiah at His birth. The King of All comes into the world under the earthly authority of corrupt, unjust rulers.
In order to embrace the good news of Christmas, we must offer the broken dimensions of ourselves to Him for healing, especially those that arise from how comfortable we have become with the usual ways of corruption. Even as He entered fully into the misery of the world as we know it, we must welcome Him into our darkest and most difficult challenges. We become more fully our true selves as we embrace His restoration of the human person in God’s image and likeness. Even as He was born into a world enslaved to the fear of the death in order to liberate it, we must become living icons of what happens when people entrust themselves fully to the God-Man. We must manifest the new day of His Kingdom in response to every person and situation we encounter. We must serve a Lord Whose Reign remains not of this world and calls us all into question.
In His Nativity, the Savior has lowered Himself in order to raise us up to the dignity from which we had fallen. He is born to share His divine life as He restores and fulfills every dimension of who we are as the children of God. That is the gloriously good news of this great feast, and it extends literally to all, regardless of what deep challenges and sorrows we face or what petty divisions we have allowed to color how we view our neighbors. Perhaps the Incarnation of the God-Man occurred in such difficult circumstances in order to make clear that His salvation is not an escape from the grave problems posed by even the harshest realities of life. Instead of looking for distractions from our difficulties, let us entrust ourselves to Him as we cooperate with His gracious purposes for the healing of our souls and for the salvation of the world. Jesus Christ became a human person so that we might become nothing less than “partakers of the divine nature” by grace. Let us celebrate this great feast by doing precisely that.