Blog # 287 Christmas 1 - 001
Today is Wednesday, December 26,2012, so it is too late to wish you a Happy Christmas, right? Well, not really. Our Church calendar celebrates Christmas for a full eight days and today is within that octave, so I am actually right on time. And from another point of view, if there is any substance to the wish on some of the Christmas greetings we receive that the peace and hope and joy of Christmas might remain with us all year long and beyond, I am on time again! And I think there can and should be a significant substance to such a wish. In fact that is what this blog is going to be about.
It started several weeks ago at the beginning of Advent with the customary Advent question "Why was Jesus born?" 'Reasons' that may have come to your mind by merely reading that question here in my blog are probably the same or similar as came to my mind again this year. ...because God loved us so much He wanted to be as close as possible to us, right among us, Emmanuel, to be our friend, give us good example, encouragement and power even in temptation, to suffer and die to win for us forgiveness for our since and show us from the Cross how much the Father was worth to Him, how much He loved the Father and how much the Father and He loved us, to go to Heaven and prepare a place for us there...
These and similar insights were all true and valuable in helping us appreciate the significance of Christmas as the initiation of the life-story of the Word of God incarnate on earth. Surely Jesus was not sent merely for that single first day of His life among us, though if you witnessed it only from the point of view of the business world you might get that impression The lighted trees are put away. Beautiful Christmas wrappings and decorations are valued at half price or less. We tend to think less of Christmas until next year and it happens again for all who will not have died in the meantime.
But our Church calendar is right. Christmas is more than a day. The birth of Jesus bought to earth a new eternal relationship to God of one of us, Jesus, and in Him all of us who believe and are Baptized.
So we watch the baby Jesus grow. A boy. A man. He is good and generous, doing all that we would expect from Him. Eventually He publicly claims that God is His Father. When someone questions Him about His age, He says "Before Abraham came to be, I AM. That is the same way Yahweh spoke of Himself when Moses asked Him who it was who was sending Moses to free the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt.
So the people knew Jesus was making Himself equal to God. They were not mistaken here. Jesus would say it again on more than one occasion. "Philip, whoever sees Me sees the Father". (Jn 14: 9. :If you knew Me you would know the Father also." (Jn 8: 19; 14: 7). "The father and I are one. (Jn 10: 30). Jesus clearly claimed to be God. The people accused Jesus of blasphemy. They could not believe God could be so humble.
In His conversation with Nicodemus in chapter five of John ( v. 3), Jesus says a person must be born from above to see the kingdom of God. In this context the word 'see' can mean to know, understand, or experience. Thinking Jesus was referring to a second natural birth, Nicodemus asks how could it be that a person could enter his mother's womb a second time and be born again. Jesus clarifies the issue. He is speaking of a spiritual reality rather then a physical one.
In this light we realize Jesus is speaking of the same spiritual reality when in other significant texts He uses the word 'life'. Texts such as "Let me solemnly assure you, if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood, you have no life in you" (Jn 6: 53), and "...the person who feeds on this bread
shall live forever" (Jn 6: 58) do not refer to our physica human life but rather to the spiritual life of faith Jesus made reference to in His conversation with Nicodemus.
This is the common life we share as members of Christ's Body, the Church, and, as Jesus put it, as branches on the living vine. God became one of us in Jesus so that by faith we might in Him share God's divine life in our limited human way. This is the gift we refer to as the gift of Sanctifying Grace, the gift that makes us holy or like to God.
In telling the Apostles to preach the Gospel to every creature throughout the world Jesus is revealing that it is the Father's will that all should be invited to share this gift of new supernatural life in Him. How sad it is that we are so far from realizing this plan of the Father for all people. No wonder the Church can't let go of Christmas in just one day!