Christmas

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  12/6/1999
 

The study of the liturgy and its history is a fascinating area of theology. To understand the development of the various feasts and seasons we celebrate gives us one more tool whereby we can celebrate them with all the more appreciation and fervor.

Take Christmas, for example.

It is actually much more than the feast of the birth of Christ. His actual birth is, of course, a key element, both of the Christmas celebration and of all human history.

But Christmas, originally and fundamentally, is the feast of the Incarnation.

We can best understand "Incarnation" by thinking for a moment about Jesus' title "Son of God." When a parent has a son in a human family, it is clear that there was a time when the parent existed but the son did not. The parent has more experience, wisdom, and strength than the son.

But this is not the case with Jesus.

There was never a time that the Father existed but the Son did not. He always was. Furthermore, all the wisdom and power of the Father belong also to the Son. The Son is "God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father" (Creed). Simply put, the Son of God is God.

Christmas, then, is not when Jesus began existing. Christmas, and hence the Incarnation, is about Jesus beginning to exist as a human being. (This begins to happen, of course, nine months before His birth.) The Divine Person shared our human nature. One of our brothers in the human family is God.

When God makes people, He creates a human body and soul and says, "This is yours!" In the Incarnation, He creates a human body and soul, and says, "This is mine!"

The Second Vatican Council drew out a key implication of this doctrine: "By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being" (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, 22). Without denying the doctrine of the necessity of evangelization and baptism, this truth is a profound basis for our seeing every human being as a brother or sister. This doctrinal truth is in turn the source of the moral obligation to care for each other.

Christmas is God in human language. Some are afraid to approach the Infinite and Almighty God. But who is afraid to approach a baby? Christmas is God's invitation to approach Him -- and in doing so, to approach one another, to accept one another. It is the acceptance of the fact of the Incarnation and all it implies.

In this context, The Gospel of Life states, "It is precisely in the "flesh" of every person that Christ continues to reveal himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ" (EV #104).

The meaning of Christmas is completely incompatible with any acceptance of abortion. May this Christmas, therefore, invigorate our pro-life commitment.