Fr. Ted Colleton
God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that we may have life through Him. That is from the first letter of St. John the Apostle.
I have been asked to speak about Christmas and its real meaning. Unfortunately Christmas comes to us well wrapped up in the things of the world. The Santa Claus Parade, the parties, the gifts, the music, the eating and the drinking. None of these is wrong in itself but it is possible that in spite of our faith we can be so distracted with all the material externals that we miss the real meaning of Christmas.
I would like to reflect a little on the meaning of this event compared with which every other event in human history pales into utter insignificance. Who was this Child that lay in the manger in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago? For us Christians there can only be one answer, He was and is God. As really and truly God, as is God the Holy Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Another fairy tale?
If He is less than God, even if he is the highest Angel in Heaven, Christmas is a sham and the entire story of our redemption is just another fairy tale. But you and I know that Christmas is no fairy tale. Christmas is the greatest story ever told. A story which surpasses every other story.
So suppose we span the centuries in our imagination and come to Bethlehem and see Him whose birth the angels sing.
Having bowed our heads in order to enter the cave or stable what do we see! A young man – St. Joseph was not old as the pictures usually portray, but a young Jew in his early twenties. With him is a young woman probably of more than ordinary beauty and in the manger a baby. According to a tradition based on a verse in the Prophet Isaiah, an ass and a donkey were also in attendance chewing quietly and probably a little annoyed at these unexpected visitors. And we believe that this baby was the God who created the Universe. Are we insane? No, we are not. But this baby divides history into two parts. The events which happened before His birth and the events that occurred after it.
All the Old Testament looks forward to this event and all the New Testament books are based on it. Every official document of Church or State bears witness to the Birth of Christ. For it must be dated to be valid and the date 1996 means roughly nineteen hundred and ninety six years since a baby was born in a stable at Bethlehem.
And what do we base this stupendous claim that this babe was the Eternal God, the King of Heaven and Earth. We could quote many texts in scripture but perhaps the most pertinent is in the very first chapter of the gospel of St. John: “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. And the word was made flesh and lived amongst us.”
But why did Our Lord come amongst us in such a lowly manner? Could He not have come in some other way? Of course He could. He could have come as He tells us He would come at the end of the world with Great Power and majesty and all the angels with Him. Perhaps I could best explain the reason by a kind parable which is completely untheological and reduces God to human terms. But Christ’s parables were like that also. The Prodigal Son’s Father, represented God. Let us imagine God the Father up in Heaven calling God the Son one day and saying: “Son, look down on earth, where they are eating and drinking, buying and selling, and killing and living as if there were no other life. They have been like this since Adam defied Me in the Garden and rejected My friendship. Now I want you to go down on earth and bring them back to My friendship and teach them to adopt My values.” The son says “you mean Father, you want me to go down and take over the world and show them by force that they must obey you. And God the Father says: “No My Son that would never do. I want you to become really one of them.
“You are a divine person with a divine nature. You are God, just as I am. But I want you, while remaining God, to take or assume a human nature which will make you be a man just as really as they are. So you will be a divine person with two natures: the divine nature which makes you God and the human nature which makes you human.
Men and their blind pride think that riches are the most important thing in the world, so I want you to be poor; Men think that power is of paramount importance, so I want you to be weak; Men are convinced that earthly pleasure leads to true happiness so I want you to show them by suffering how wrong they are. But before you return to Heaven after your Resurrection, I want you to establish a Church on Earth through which you will continue to teach and sanctify, all those who will listen to You and accept your values. For you will be for them, the Way, and the Truth and the Light.”