4th Sunday of Advent
The LORD also reveals to you
that he will establish a house for you.
One sometimes hears these days the trite expression, “the magic of Christmas.” But good Christians will prefer another expression, “the miracle of Christmas, or “wonder of Christmas” because that is the most accurate description of Christmas for believers of all ages, in every age. In truth, the miracle or wonder of Christmas is only fully accessible to faith. In what sense, then, is Christmas seen as a miracle by believing Christians?
For us, Christmas celebrates the greatest of wonders, the “miracle” of the infinite and almighty God, who made the heavens and the earth, making himself a part of his creation and entering into human history as part of that history. Christmas marks the miracle of the infinite becoming utterly finite, forever taking our comparatively infinitesimal humanity to Himself, as His own, and for our sake.
Once faith fully assents to this wondrous fact, the miracle of God truly becoming man, indeed a child of man, everything else about Christmas becomes understandably miraculous, wonderful to behold, most powerful in its effect on our hearts, and miraculous in what it does to our souls. The virginal conception and virginal birth itself, the Shepherds’ vision of the Angels, the Maji following a star, all of this is miraculous, but minor when compared to the miracle they are all ordered to, the stupendous coming of God into his Creation to rescue what He himself created, and above all to rescue the image of Himself that he placed in this world, the image of God found in the human person.
In every age there are unbelievers who miss the stupendous nature of the miracle of Christmas and what it accomplishes in any faith-filled soul, and then there are those who take this miracle in by their faith, and allow it to works its wonders in their persons. Christians who have true faith will celebrate this miraculous event in history and be transformed by its unmistakable joy no matter where they are, or what the condition of their life may be. Indeed, the more difficult a Christian’s life, the more wonderful will their greeting of Christ likely be on the feast of his birth. For in their suffering, they come to know that He alone makes their life worth living, and He alone holds out the hope that God has not abandoned them, even if the world has.
Indeed, our faith teaches us that God became man for no other reason than to assure that every human person’s life has meaning and hope. The very fact of his coming for our salvation is the greatest assurance we possess of our true value as human beings, the value we have in the eyes of our Creator. And His coming is likewise the promise that they will at last know the joy of their Master, if not in this world, then at least in His heavenly Kingdom.
Theologically speaking, the Incarnation of God is the visible proof of God’s eternal love for every man and woman, and of His eternal desire for their happiness here and in eternity. God would not have gone to such lengths, become a part of our troubled world, had he not loved us beyond all telling and loved us so in spite of our failure to love Him in return, which is the deepest meaning of our sins.
And yet it’s also true that this God’s tremendous desire for our personal happiness may not be realized in this world to any great degree, no matter how much we struggle to make that happen. Human sin can frustrate the earthly happiness even of faithful Christians because of the indifference of so many people who could help, but choose not to help those who are suffering. Jesus taught us that he knows our suffering by being born himself in poverty and its suffering, because their was no room made available to a young woman about to give birth. In life, He suffered rejection, misunderstanding, vile accusations, and finally torture and death as a criminal. He chose this path of life surely to reassure the poor and abandoned of this world that God is personally close to them in their suffering, and to assure them that if man does not alleviate their suffering, then God will surely make it up to them superabundantly in his heavenly kingdom.
So Christmas is the great feast of Faith and Hope for all of us, but especially for the poor, because the whole event is a promise that God has come especially for his little ones, which he shows by entering His world as a poor child or poor parents. And in truth, all of us sooner or later are among the suffering, even if we are rich, and all of us face that ultimate poverty of death, when we are the poorest of the poor, even our life being taken from us.
And thus Christmas is hope for all of us, because we are all the poor in the ultimate sense, for we are all condemned to die, and we all suffer in different ways in this life. Moreover, all of us are also desperately poor when it comes to our sinfulness and inability to save ourselves, not only from physical death but the second death which results from the evil of sin and separation from the Lord who alone can give us life eternal.
That fact of our spiritual poverty again points us to the miracle of Christmas for every person, because in this deeply spiritual sense every person is truly poor. We have no hope in this world when it comes to eternal life if we look to our selves, but God has come to our rescue by doing what was unimaginable, by taking on our mortality, our poor humanity, so that he can give our mortal flesh an immortal destiny. He has come for our sake, to rescue us from hopelessness and fear, and to give us a share in His Life, His happiness.
Once we surrender to Him, nothing can ever take that gift away from us if only we hold on for dear life to the humanity of our savior, whose birthday we celebrate each Christmas. His Birthday is, in truth, the birthday of hope for man. If we miss this miracle of Christmas, we miss everything. If we grasp this miracle, then we have the secret to life, to eternal life, and we possess joy, unending joy.
With Mary, then, who believed, with Joseph who believed, with the Shepherds and the Wise men who believed, let us all make our way to Bethlehem once more to greet our Savior this Christmas, to greet Him as our Savior, as God made man. May we all come to know His joy who came for us, and who lived and died and rose for us. That is the Christmas miracle God gives to each of us, and it will never fail to fill the believer’s heart with that tremendous joy that the world in its unbelief can never understand or share.