“While gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, [the] all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne. Into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command.”
So did King Solomon of old foretell the coming of Christ in the stillness of a cold winter’s night. What we celebrate (today / tonight) is the fulfillment of all the ancient promises, that the land that was doomed by sin would be visited from on high by a savior. Indeed, today, “A child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful.” Into the vast timeline of history breaks a surprise – the timeless enters time, but not as we would have expected. Christ had every right to come “as a stern warrior,” as the great and mighty King that is, but instead He hides Himself before our eyes: a little child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in an animal’s feeding trough on a bed of hay.
Amidst the majesty and splendor of this (night / day), we are faced with the mystery of a God who desired to draw near to us. All of us, in our own ways, have been searching for Him. Maybe here, maybe there, maybe in places where He can be found, maybe in places where we realize that He cannot be found. But amidst all of our searching, God was looking for us.
“The One who has no equal, who ‘is seated on high,’ looks down upon us. He stoops down. He sees us, and he sees [you]. God’s looking down is much more than simply seeing from above. God’s looking is active. The fact that he sees [you], that he looks at [you], transforms [you] and the world around [you].” If the almighty, all-powerful God has taken on human flesh, then no human person can ever be the same. Christ’s becoming man this (night / day) invites you to put aside whatever vain search for meaning you are undertaking – any meaning to this life apart from Him – to draw near instead to the One who leaped from heaven itself, to draw near to you.
The majesty and the grandeur of Christmas – the song of the angels on that cold winter’s night, themselves so surprised by this great mystery that they burst forth in a new song never before heard – “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will” – this is something we must capture if we are to understand the significance of the Incarnation, of God taking our poor human flesh. Then we can see why the prophet Isaiah cries out: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, ‘Your God is King!’”
Christ took the form of human flesh – God became man in that humble stable – not just to inspire feelings of warmth and joy in our hearts. He came to ransom us from our sins! “Into the midst of a land of doom,” Solomon says, which is what our world is without Christ, which is what each of our lives is without Christ, a land of doom. Each of us knows that, has experienced that, in our own ways.
St. Paul reminds us, though, that it was precisely while we were sinners that Christ came to save us. “The kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of his mercy.” Mercy. Amidst all of our sins, amidst all of our wondering and searching for God in all the wrong places, He came looking for us in His great mercy, in the form of a tender, little child. He who had every right to condemn and to punish chose instead to come in search of His lost lambs.
That great search for our souls does not end at the manger. It continues to this very day. The same God who became man and dwelt for a while in that humble stable dwells now under the even more humble appearances of bread and wine in the tabernacle of this and every Catholic church. God is still searching for us. That majesty, that grandeur of the first Christmas – the angels breaking into song as the almighty Word descends in pregnant silence from His lofty throne – is present too at each and every Holy Mass, at which the angels still break forth into song as we echo their lyrics: “Glory to God in the Highest!” “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts!” And so too that simple and quiet tenderness present at the crèche, are also present in a church together at prayer.
If it is God Himself who is in search of us, then allowing ourselves to be found by Him cannot leave us without being permanently changed. Man and woman have not been the same since that cold and beautiful night two thousand, seventeen years ago today, and you and I should not be the same either. Tell in the Lord in your heart (tonight / today): “Lord, here I am, you have found me. Show me the way in which you are going to change me, the way in which you are going to fix my brokenness, the way in which you are going to save me from myself, the way in which the greatness and the power of your love are going to transform my feeble heart.”
The God who became flesh at Bethlehem will make that same flesh present on this very altar. His search for you is never over, and nor should yours be for Him.