Sunday Sermon for December 25, 2021, the Nativity of our Lord, Year C
Readings: Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18
We know from God’s revelation of Himself that He is love. As human persons made in God’s image and likeness, we are made for love: to love, to be loved, to be transformed into love. As beautiful as this is, we have two problems due to Original Sin and our own sins. The first is that we do not always grasp what love is. The second is that we sometimes do not believe that God actually loves us (this may be because we do not believe ourselves to be loveable).
Knowing our human plight, God chose to “prove” His love for us. He did this in two specific ways. The second, to which St. Paul refers in the second reading, was on the Cross. Jesus accomplished the purification of sin and opened for us the way to Heaven where He already sits at the right hand of His Father. This is certainly the ultimate act of love, a true and literal dying to self for the good of others. However, because we struggle with understanding love, many people do not understand the depth of what our Lord did for us on the Cross, neither do they grasp the motive of why He did it.
The other “proof” of God’s love for us is one that most people understand and are attracted to. It is the birth of our Lord from His wonderful Mother. Babies are love incarnate; in the Incarnation and birth of our Lord we have, once again, a true and literal Love incarnate. Babies are like magnets for the human heart. We are drawn to them and we can let our guard down with them because of their innocence and untainted goodness.
In these two expressions of God’s love for us, we see that His love is not temporary, neither is it closed off from us. We are drawn to Jesus in His infancy; He opens Heaven to us in His Passion. On the Cross His heart was literally opened so we can have entrance. This openness continues for all eternity since we have access to both Heaven and His Sacred Heart which is the center of Heaven.
As we know, the things of the spiritual life are just the opposite of the things on the material level. So, when Isaiah says God has bared His holy arm and that the ends of the earth will behold His salvation, we might interpret this in a threatening or violent way. Instead, God shows His power through what appears to be weakness: He is born as a baby and He died on a Cross.
Moreover, this demonstrates the absolute humility of God. Recall that humility and charity and linked in an absolute manner so that the height of one’s charity is equal to the depth of one’s humility. If the birth of our Lord shows His love, it also expresses His humility; the same can be said about the Cross. Recall also that God cannot change. Therefore, the humility and charity we see in the Baby at Bethlehem and in the Man on the Cross remain the same. Therefore, our attraction to Him should be the same whether it is in the manger, on the Cross, or in His glory in Heaven.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that God had revealed Himself previously in various and partial ways, but now He has spoken through His Son. Since the Son is God, He is the full revelation of the Father. There is nothing more to be revealed, but there is infinitely more to be understood. This is why, in the Gospel, St. John speaks of the Incarnation in such lofty, but seemingly, vague terms. He could have simply said our Lord was born; instead he said the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
God, St. Paul said, spoke to us through His Son. The Son is the Word, hence God speaks through the Son. We understand things when they are spoken, told, or explained to us. However, there are some things that can only be grasped by experience. God can speak of His love for us in many ways, as He does in the Scriptures. But on the human level, we might say that words are cheap. Therefore, He demonstrates His love for us in the Person of His Son: in His Incarnation and birth, in His life and teaching, and in His Passion and death.
Since Jesus is the fullness of the revelation of God and, since His Heart is open to us—figuratively in the manger, literally on the Cross—the deeper we can enter into Him, the more we will understand. Draw near to our Lord in the manger, open you heart to Him, enter His heart, and come to know and understand His love.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.