Christmas - the Incarnation.
So much going on - it seems after Thanksgiving (or was it Halloween this year?) we kick into "high gear" for shopping. How can we re-focus on what is
being celebrated this time of year?
Of course, the first place to turn would be the Scriptures. The New Testament certainly teaches that the "Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw his glory" (Jn. 1:14ab). The eternal Son of God, taking human nature from his mother Mary, uniting it to his Divine Person and living a human existence on earth with all the limitations that such a life entails: joy, frustration, hunger, celebration, fatigue, triumph, life, death. "He became what we are that we might become what he is" (St. Athanasius,
The Incarnation of the Word
It might be very helpful to remember that word - "incarnation" - and to try and use it almost as often as we use the word "Christmas" because it so clearly and concisely captures the true nature of the season. To become "incarnate" means, from the Latin
"the act of being made flesh".
There are some amazing implications to this unique historical event. This shows a God who is so genuinely and intimately concerned about His creatures that He wishes to enter into such a union with them. It also means that, as human beings created in the image and likeness of God, we are able to do so in a way that is impossible for any other creature (inanimate, plant, animal and angelic). In doing so, the eternal second Person of the Holy Trinity entered into a particular moment of history for our salvation.
It might be helpful to reflect on that for a moment. The chasm that had to be crossed for the Creator to become a part of the creation is infinitely greater than any one part of creation becoming another. Imagine what it would be like if we could become like an ant. Certainly we would consider that a "step down" from our current status as human beings. The descent that Christ had to undergo in becoming human is far greater than our becoming an ant.
Also, in taking our human nature, it was necessary for Jesus to take on aspects that were completely outside the divine nature. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the justice of God" (2 Cor. 5:21). But this was necessary, not for God's sake but for ours. By taking on all human aspects
, God fashioned for us a remedy for both the lack of grace that the Original Sin of Adam and Eve introduced and the turning away from grace that our own personal sin accomplishes. Limited humanity itself was unable to make sufficient reparation for the wrong that had and has been committed. The only way that such atonement could be properly made was through an infinite being - God Himself - which explains why Jesus had to be born, live, suffer and die the way that he did.
However, the Incarnation took place without any lessening of the Person of the Son. Through Jesus, God showed the surprising capacity of his freedom and love: "If he was also weak, this was due to his own fullness of power" (St. Augustine,
The City of God,
The Incarnation - Christmas - saw the human appearance of God in the lowest of circumstances for humanity: a manger, a feeding trough for animals. The Paschal Mystery - the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus - saw the glorious appearance of God appearing in that same humanity. The Ascension - the translation of the body and soul of Jesus into Heaven - foreshadows how one day we too will continue and share in that glorified human nature. A gift far greater than any Christmas shopping spree can possibly imagine or obtain!
The nativity mystery “conceived from the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary”, means that God became human, truly human out of his own grace. The miracle of the existence of Jesus, his “climbing down of God” is: Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary! Here is a human being, the Virgin Mary, and as he comes from God, Jesus comes also from this human being. Born of the Virgin Mary means a human origin for God. Jesus Christ is not only truly God, he is human like every one of us. He is human without limitation. He is not only similar to us, he is like us.
Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Movie (1 hour, 28 minutes) -
God With Us
He was born in humble obscurity, yet His family had to flee to save Him from a jealous ruler. He forgave sins, healed the sick and gave hope to the downhearted and oppressed, yet He was despised and rejected by many. He spoke the truth even when it was dangerous to do so. He willingly laid down His life and then rose again, conquering the power of death! From The Voice of the Martyrs comes God with Us, formerly called Jesus: He Lived Among Us. With newly enhanced animation, it is the dramatic retelling of the life of Jesus Christ as seen through the eyes of the last surviving apostle, John. Journey with Jesus and encounter His miracles, His astonishing teaching and His unsurpassed bravery. Discover the power and love of Jesus Christ and see why His followers risked all to carry His message to the ends of the earth. Children and adults alike will be captivated by this account of Jesus’ life, featuring vivid storytelling and high impact animation. This powerful presentation will encourage and inspire viewers to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Recommended for ages 7 and up.
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Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, November 30 at 3:00PM