“For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” (Luke 2:11)
“Jesus humbled himself.
He went from commanding angels
to sleeping on straw.
From holding stars to clutching Mary’s finger.
The palm that held the universe
Took the nail of the soldier.
Because that’s what love does.”
I received this beautiful poem by the brilliant Christian author Max Lucado on a Christmas card last week. I read it over and over again. This is what love does! When we stop to ponder what Christ actually did for us by becoming a child, it makes us look at the manger scene with more of a sense of wonder. How can our omnipotent God become so fragile, so vulnerable? This is not how one would envision the King of Kings being born. Not under these circumstances. Not in this place. Yet there he is sleeping in the straw of a manger. Our God, so powerful and mighty, teaches us humility. He teaches us that to show the depths of love we must become vulnerable as well. This is the mystery of Christmas: the meek and the lowly are the ones that are favored by God, for in the silence of a stable in Bethlehem of Judea, the Son of God was born as a meek, little infant. This child who will be our Savior, our Redeemer, and our King begins the masterful work of our redemption. This is what love does indeed. God becomes a tiny child so that we may become like Him. There is no greater gift we can receive this Christmas.
And therein lies another great mystery about Christmas: God becomes gift for us. On this day when we focus so much on gifts (and giving is good), God himself makes himself a gift for humanity. When I was a child, we would always have our family manger scene under the Christmas tree and my mother would take great care that it wouldn’t be obscured by all the presents that would accumulate under the tree. This divine gift that is the Christ child tends to get obscured by so many things. We all have beautiful traditions at home for Christmas with food and gifts and family and friends, but all these traditions should point us back to the reason we gathered in the first place: to Jesus. So many times we let all the clutter of Christmas get in the way of why we celebrate. At Midnight Mass last night, Pope Benedict said: “Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light.” The shepherds saw past the great spectacle of the angels and knelt before this child. Today we celebrate this Divine Infant who became gift for us so that we would learn to become gift for others.