A woman holds a statue of baby Jesus. In the Child, God became man on Earth. CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn

Incarnation continues to be our beacon of hope

  • December 15, 2016

There are a million Catholic complaints about Christmas.

“It’s too materialistic.”

“Advent has become an orgy of shopping and social obligations.”

“Modern Christmas songs are so un-spiritual.”

“Christmas Mass is attended by people who show up one day a year.”

“The meaning of Christmas has been lost.”

But before we sink into the self-indulgent comforts of Christmas crankiness, it’s worth observing that shopping, materialism and vacuous Christmas socializing are not obligatory. Anyone can turn off their phone, find a quiet corner and rediscover the meaning of Christmas.

The Incarnation ­­— God’s decisive intervention in history and in creation by which His Son became man — is no more remote from our understanding or contemplation in 2016 than it was in 1016 or even plain old 16.

“It’s about the Trinity,” Dominican professor of theology Fr. Darren Dias told The Catholic Register.

The birth of the Saviour isn’t just about one person of the Trinity, but about the entire Trinity and God’s invitation to live our lives participating in the life of the Trinity — a life defined by love.

“It really is a Trinitarian movement into history, to draw history back into the inner life of God,” Dias said. “So that one day, through the Son and the Spirit in history, we will see God in that beatific vision. We will see God the Father face to face.”

And the Incarnation is not only about humans. Homo sapiens, after all, have only been on the planet the last 200,000 years. The universe has been around for nearly 14 billion years and it seems unlikely the Creator was absent from His creation for the first 13.99999998 billion years.

The Incarnation is one part of an event that includes Jesus’ entire life, crucifixion, death and resurrection. No one part of this event can be separated from the rest.

God’s choice to be part of His creation as a human being includes all parts of our own human experience, said Dias.

“To be born, to be happy, to experience loss and joy, to be afraid and then of course, ultimately, to be part of that finality of human existence that is death — that opens something up for us,” Dias said. “That is, resurrection — something we couldn’t accomplish on our own. We can all be born and we can all die, but because of the death of Christ we can also now join in the life of the Resurrection.”

Christmas, celebrated during the winter solstice, when nights are long and days are short, has a special place in this Incarnation.

“Into the darkest time of our year, Christ, Jesus Christ, is born,” said Sr. Linda Gregg, co-director of Villa St. Joseph Ecology and Spirituality Centre. “So Jesus comes into the deepest darkness of our personal lives, into the deepest darkness of creation itself. Then He shines that light, just as a tiny baby in the flesh shines an unbelievable wonderment of spirit into our human lives. Jesus does that not only for humans but also for all creation.”

So when we feast and celebrate with friends and family, with food, music and gifts, we’re not necessarily papering over Christmas with a party.

“Love has burst in amongst us,” said Gregg. “And our families are the people we are connected with biologically, in the tissue of our bodies.”

When religion and environment scholar Simon Appolloni thinks of Jesus being born to a teenaged girl in a manger on the outskirts of Bethlehem, he thinks the Incarnation is “not a fantastic event” because it is God honouring creation.

“It’s almost, in a sense, mundane,” said Appolloni, a lecturer at the University of Toronto.

Appolloni looks at Christ’s Incarnation in nature and sees “a truly sacramental view of creation,” in which God is made real and present.

“From that point of view, we are part of creation and God loves it. And we have to understand that, from that perspective, when we are destroying creation we are destroying something that God loves very, very much,” said Appolloni.

The Incarnation means that the weight of sin never exceeds hope.  We celebrate that hope at Christmas.

“The incarnation is God’s public avowal of God’s love for us,” said Dias. “God says to humanity and to all creation, ‘Yes, I love you. And I affirm who you are. The proof of this is in the gift of my Son.’”

It is a gift that no one should complain about.

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