Almost everyone knows about Christmas. The tree, the presents, decorations all point to the special time that Christmas is. Amidst all the hustle and bustle that surrounds the Christmas season, it is often acknowledged that it is a time of Love and Hope. But we seldom appreciate the depth to which that is true.
In order to really understand Christmas, we need to understand the Fall in the Garden of Eden; to understand the Fall, we need to understand Who God is and who we.
Remember: Deus caritas est. God is love. He is all-powerful all Good. God desired to share His goodness with others and so He created all things, and out of nothing. All of His creatures are made to reflect the Goodness of God, and to some He gave more and or different reflections of His Goodness than to other. Some creatures reflect God more perfectly.
For example, men and women reflect God more perfectly than plants and animals because men and women have intellect and free will, whereas plants and animals do not. God gave us the faculties of knowing and freely willing to love Him back in return; for love is not real if it is not free and when we use these faculties as they are they are meant to be used, we reflect God even more perfectly by it.
We know God created us to share His Goodness, but we can be a little more specific. The reason why we grace this earth is to know, love, and serve God in this life, to be happy with Him forever in the next life. It can come as a surprise to many who are weighed down by the hardships of life to hear, but it is absolutely true: We were created for happiness.
This happiness is to last forever with God if we choose Him, and the way we choose Him is by conforming ourselves to the Divine Will. God, the author of all life, knows the way we are supposed to be, the way we ‘function’ best, for our best good. That is His will for us: that we act in the way that best conforms to our being, creation, nature, grace.
When God made the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, there had to be some way for them to show their love of God; this with things they should do, and others to avoid. When Adam sinned, or transgressed the Will of God and their own spiritual good, they lost the original happiness and friendship with God they were created with.
Other consequences followed, like death entering the world, a darkening in of the intellect, a weakening of the will. Our nature was wounded, not destroyed, but like a ship with a hole in it, would continue taking on water and eventually sink if left on its own. The worst consequence, however, was that we rejected and offended Almighty God, Who is All good, All Loving, and deserving of all our love.
Through an abuse of our own free will, we separated ourselves from God. What is more, is that the gap was so great, the offense of creature rejecting his own Creator so disproportionate, that nothing we could do on our own could ever repair the injury. But God is still all good and all loving, so He promised that the devil, through whose influence our fall from grace came, would be defeated. This was the the first prophecy of the coming of a Savior. Century upon century followed.
Continued prophecy and prophetic actions gave greater clarity and specificity to who the Christ would be and what He would do. But as time continued, some began to doubt when or even if the Christ would come. The Old Testament is full with a common contrast: God being faithful to His people, God’s people being unfaithful to Him. Even during Christ Jesus’ own life, many questioned the fulfillment of God’s promise.
Christ Himself explains the reason for His coming:
“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting. God sent His Son into the world, not to judge the world, but that the world might be saved by Him.”
So the one to come would not be like other men, but the Son of God, one-in-being with the Father. The consequence of the Incarnation (the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity become man) is totally encompassing. God entering time and space sanctifies it, elevates it,transforms it, unifies it.
The whole of creation, not exclusively the soul, is touched by the redemptive action of God. Our whole being isbrought into closer relation to the One Who made us, and He dignifies us by condescending to share in our human nature, while losing nothing of His Divine Nature.
The Good News of the Gospel is that God kept and keeps His promises; that He loves us and is willing to prove that love; that we who follow Christ will be won back by the merits of His Passion and death; that we will be saved from our sins and restored to His friendship.
All of this began about 2,000 years ago in the modest setting of a stable.
An ancient Latin text exuberantly sings: O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, iacentem in praesepio!
O great mystery, and wonderous sacrament, that animals should see the new-born Lord, lying in a manger! In the quiet stillness of night, the Child-Redeemer was born.
Humble shepherds receive angelic greetings and witness the paradox of the King of Kings surrounded with hay and beast. Their reverence is deep, their joy, deeper. Those shepherds return to their fields rejoicing for they witness God’s Fulfillment in the flesh! The world is different now; the shepherds know it.
Christmas is not about buying things, trees, decorations, reindeer or snow- as nice as those things are. Christmas is about something far deeper, far better. It is about the Good, Faithful, Fatherly, Love of God, and His willingness to give all of Himself to rescue His wayward children, you and I. He is our hope. This is the great mystery and the great joy of Christmas
Author: Fr. Kevin O’Neill, FSSP – Pastor, Immaculate Conception Church