ATHE WORD WAS MADE FLESH.@
Christmas Mass during the day. Heb. 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18.
AIM: To explain the Incarnation and its significance for us.
It=s a strange gospel for Christmas, isn=t it? Where, we ask, are the shepherds, the manger, Mary and Joseph? Where is their child? Instead of these familiar Christmas figures we have heard about abstractions: light and darkness, the Word becoming flesh.
Let=s start with another word: Aincarnation.@ It means Ataking on flesh, embodiment.@ This building is the incarnation of an idea in the mind of the architect who designed it. It is the incarnation or embodiment too of the sacrifices that made its construction possible. Children are the incarnation of their parents= love. And Jesus is the incarnation of God.
We cannot see God. Jesus shows us what God is like. That is why this Christmas gospel calls Jesus God=s Word. A word is used to communicate. Jesus is God=s word because he is God=s communication to us: not a lifeless, abstract statement, but God=s living and breathing utterance and self-disclosure.
When we listen to Jesus, we hear God speaking to us. When we look at Jesus, we see what God is like. What do we see when we look at Jesus? We see that he preferred simple, ordinary people. He came to the world in a provincial village where nothing interesting or important ever happened. Jesus moved not among wealthy or sophisticated people, or among scholars and intellectuals, but among ordinary people. They were the ones who welcomed him most warmly. The rich and powerful and learned had difficulties with Jesus. Many were hostile to him. That was true then. It remains true today.
Jesus was of the earth, earthy. In his youth he worked with his hands in the carpenter=s shop. His teaching was full of references to simple things: the birds of the air, the wind and the raging waves, the lilies of the field, the vine, the lost sheep, the woman searching for her one lost coin, leavening dough with yeast, the thief breaking in at night. Those were images that everyone could understand. Jesus taught also in parables: stories so simple that they capture the interest of children; yet so profound that learned scholars are still studying them today.
In preferring simple people and simple things, Jesus was showing us what God is like. He who is God=s utterance and word, God=s personal communication to us, is saying through all the circumstances of his life that God loves humble people. God is especially close to those who feel that they are not in control of their lives; that they are the victims of circumstances; that their lives are a tangle of loose ends and broken resolutions.
In his earthiness Jesus shows us God=s love for this world and everything in it. Often we think of God and religion as concerned only with some higher, spiritual realm. That is wrong! God loves the earth and the things of earth. He must love them, because he made them. And God does not make anything that is not lovable. As John, the writer of today=s gospel, tells us in a later chapter: AGod so loved the world that he gave his only Son@ (Jn 3:16).
It is because God gave us his Son at Christmas that we give gifts to one another. The greatest gift we can give cannot be bought in any store. You cannot order it from an 800-number or over the Internet. You cannot wrap it. You cannot send it through the mail, by UPS or Federal Express. It is the gift God gave us at Christmas: the gift of himself. Even as a baby Jesus is God=s personal word and communication to us. In the words of our second reading, he is Athe refulgence [that means the shining forth] of [God=s] glory, the very imprint of his being.@
Look at Mary=s child: helpless, vulnerable, and weak, as all babies are. He is God=s way of saying: >This is how much the Lord God, creator of heaven and earth, loves you; enough to be become tiny, insignificant, vulnerable.= Jesus, the personal utterance and word of God, is God=s gift to you. He wants you to share this gift with others. You do so when, like God himself, you give yourself to others: when, like Jesus, you too love the company of ordinary people; when, like him, you remain close to the earth and the things of earth.
In a few moments we shall be offered our greatest and most important Christmas gift: the body and blood of our Lord, of Jesus who is God=s personal word to each one of us. The consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist are Christ=s body and blood: all his power, all his goodness, all his love. He offers all this to us:
C not as a reward for services rendered;
C not because we are good enough (for none of us is);
C but because he is so good that he wants to share his power, his goodness, and his love with us.
Jesus gives us this greatest of all gifts under one strict condition: that what we here receive, we generously share with others.