Merry Christmas! No longer do we eagerly request, “Come, Lord!” Now we proclaim, “He is here!” The Lord of hosts, the “image of the invisible God,” the Prince of Peace, the “wisdom and power of God,” the One through whom “all things came to be,” has entered into His creation in the form of a creature. Yet, He is still God! He is fully human and fully divine, neither some Frankensteinian combination of the two, nor a limited edition of just one. A lamb can become a lion only by being eaten. But God becomes man and “makes his dwelling among us” without consuming His divinity or our humanity (as if it is truly “ours” anyway). What a wonderful paradox!
This true, good, and beautiful act of God, the incarnation, is possible only because we are not in competition with Him - as the lion and lamb. God is love. He loves us into being and sustains us by His love. If God were to stop loving (i.e. cease being Himself) we would simply... not... be. As you are reading these words, the very fact that you “are” at all testifies to the divine identity: love. This God who is love has become one of us, giving love a face, a name, a family. This eternal God, Jesus, has entered history born of a woman in the backwaters of Caesar’s Rome. This “babe of Bethlehem” is our God, our one and only King, the one true Lord to whom we owe our total allegiance. Augustus’ power, and that of all like him in history, is utter weakness in light of this “tender and mild” baby, who, three decades hence, will conquer even death. Thus Saint Paul says of Christ crucified: “the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor. 1:25) But before all that, as a newborn, shepherds and wise men seek Him, kings attempt to assassinate him, and armies of angels assemble. These are merely the opening movements of a drama that never gets old or goes out of style, the greatest story every told.
We celebrate no ordinary birth these days, and think of the wonder and joy of an ordinary one! Reasons to blunt this wonder and joy will abound in the coming weeks. Resist them. Hold fast to this newborn in prayer. Wonder at the God-man, love incarnate, who is more powerful than all the Caesars of history and yet as vulnerable as a baby. Find joy in that baby who, though “laid in a manger,” a place of animal feed, became (and becomes in the Eucharist) food for us. Merry Christmas! Alleluia!