At Christmas we celebrate the mystery of the Incarnation. There are two ways to approach this mystery. One is to think of it as God descending from heaven and taking on human form in Christ. The Word is made flesh, the invisible becomes visible, the creator of the stars of night comes into creation, and “the dear Christ enters in.”
Another way to think of the Incarnation is that God has “taken up” creation into God’s own being. Creation is encompassed by the creator, God is with-us because God has drawn us that close, and humanity itself is divinized in Christ’s person.
Any way we think of it, we are filled with the awe and wonder of the shepherds who heard the angels singing, “Gloria!” The fullness of God’s majesty is present in the lowly child of Bethlehem, and if there, then also in the daily humdrum of each of our individual lives. In our daily commute to work, in the process of doing our weekly laundry, in the meal we share with family, when we brush our teeth before bed—everywhere! In everything! It’s barely imaginable, but Thomas Merton came close to describing the experience of Incarnation and realizing its implications:
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world…
This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.
Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could all see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed… But this cannot be seen, only believed and ‘understood’ by a peculiar gift.”
May you receive this peculiar gift as you contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation this year. May you be blessed in all your daily and holiday activities, knowing that God is deeply and intimately present within it all. And may the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of the child Christ.