No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known. John 1:18
Considering just how cynical and secular our culture has become one might wonder why we continue to keep Christmas. Is it really for economic reasons…a marketing ploy by retailers, much like Valentine’s Day? Maybe it’s nostalgia…a sentimental looking back and longing for some mythical time in the past when we really believed that “peace on earth goodwill to men” was a laudable goal if not a realistic possibility. Despite the Christian’s lip service to “keeping the Christ in Christmas” and the plethora of crèches depicting the all-American holy family the true meaning of Christmas seems to have gotten lost in consumerism and political expediency. We continue to say and sing all the right words but no one seems to remember or even care about the radical message those words carry.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it…..and the Word that was the light…and was God became flesh and dwelt among us.” God became human….the Creator of all that is became one of us…vulnerable, frail…finite beings full of potential for good and for evil. Why did we allow ourselves to forget just how mysterious and miraculous…and radical that bit of truth is? How did we allow ourselves to forget…or perhaps ignore the profound implications of that truth for our individual and collective lives?
In the humanness of God, we see the potential for the divinity of humanity. God became as we are that we might become as he is. Our Gospel tells us that “no one has seen the Father, but is the Son who has made him known.” We can know God through coming to know Jesus Christ. In knowing Christ we cannot help but desire to be like him and in being like him we become like God. What good work…..what extraordinary acts of love are then beyond us? God became human so that we might have an intimate relationship with the divine….so that God might know us and we might know God.”What is humanity that God is so mindful of us”?
In loving us this much God has made us worthy of his love…all of us …each of us. No one no matter how broken or lost is beyond the reach of the love of God. This has nothing to do with personal merit but rather the limitless capacity of God to love. Even when we are not faithful to God, God remains faithful to us.
Does this then relieve us of the responsibility to respond to God’s call to live a holy life? Not at all. In as much as we are able, if we but allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable to the Holy Spirit we cannot help but respond to love with love. In loving God we will find it possible to love our neighbors….to love the stranger…and when we are perfected to even love our enemies. But love is not tyranny and God does not force us to follow in the holy way. Rather we are encouraged and supported by the Spirit and by the other members of our community of faith to live into the promise of mutual love offered to us by the Father.
We can turn away from God… and many do…embracing the darkness but in the end, this brings only misery to ourselves and to others. Out of this darkness comes greed and anger…cruelty and hatred. Here are the seeds of war and terror….of aggression and arrogance…of selfishness and willful ignorance. Here in the darkness the devil and his angels grasp at power and spread their torment through all who will allow or invite them into their hearts and lives.
But we who answer the call of the Holy Spirit to become as Christ in this world are not born of the darkness but rather are the children of light. This light is the love that we share in our actions and our words. But to those who choose to answer the call of God with a resounding “yes” must eventually come to the awareness that you cannot live in the light and embrace the darkness. The law of love that governs us in our religious life must govern all of our lives. We must not think that it is possible to be holy on Sunday and dance with the devil the rest of the week.
If we love our neighbor in our prayers at Sunday Mass we must seek to love that same neighbor when he is annoying us on Wednesday. We cannot ask God to bless our own children and yet say and do nothing when presented with the suffering of other people’s children. When we take up the mantle of Christ we take up suffering …for we will no longer be able to ignore the suffering of those around us. Having been given our sight we will not then be able to choose to not see God’s broken suffering children, of all ages and situations of life that we encounter in our daily walk. Having then witnessed the suffering of God’s children we will be called to bind up wounds and share burdens…to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless….to welcome the stranger no matter how they come…to encourage the downtrodden and the demand justice for the oppressed. This is what our Lord came into the world to do…and this is the work we who walk in His Way are called to continue.
In the Kingdom of God, we will come face to face with the need of our neighbor and it will be up to us to respond or to turn away. In the Kingdom of God, there are no border walls and there never will be. In the Kingdom of God, there is no sovereign but Christ and there is no government but love. In the Kingdom, our only allegiance is to God who created and loved us and to the universal community of the creation.
The radical message of God’s Incarnation in Jesus Christ has not changed in the two millennia since it first occurred yet somehow we cannot seem to accept it as it is without making excuses for our failure to live into our call as the heralds of this message. We cannot proclaim it without living it and we cannot live it without being willing to give up power and prestige…comfort and the emotional buffer of ignorance that allows one to live a life of privilege with no thought given to the suffering of the marginalized. If we become as Christ to the world we give up the safety of tribalism for we will be called to love and care for everyone without regard for tribe or nation…social status or family tree.
So, fellow Christians…the time has come for us to relearn the lessons of love taught to us by our teacher and brother Jesus. Darkness and despair are growing in the world and the only remedy is the light of love that we are called to carry. Let us not grow weary in the service of Christ. Let us lift up one another and encourage the best that each of us has to give. There is a place for all of us in the Kingdom…there is work to be done…there is love to share. The burden is so much lighter if we carry it together.
We can make Christmas relevant again….we can bring truth back to Christianity and love into the everyday lives of people who have known very little kindness and even less understanding. In the Incarnation, God became human that we might know the depth of his love. Let us with abandon plunge into the depths of that love that we might rise anew having been touched by the Holy Spirit and made divine.