“When God revealed Himself to this poor world of ours, men cried in astonishment: ‘Why, it is a child?’ And so it is that the closer we get to God the more we become children, and the closer God gets to us the more He becomes a child. No one in the world ever suspected that the Ancient of Days Who presided at creation would take His throne in that creation as a babe in a crib, just as no one ever thought He would tell the old men of forty, like Nicodemus, that they must be born again. Christmas, then, is the coronation of childhood, the glorification of the young whose hearts are simple, the proclamation to aging hearts that the world need not despair and die, because the Fountain of Youth has come it to turn time backward, make old things young again.”
– Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen
The above phrase from the cerebral Tele-evangelist and former Archbishop of Florida, will set us on the right gear for this musing as we peruse through the rarely discussed periscope of the solemnity of Christmas. And as our voyage sets sail, I wish to say that you are free to grab your own brand of drink and sip along the way. I’ve got mine. We are to dissect the topic on a lighter mood.
So let’s go!
At Christmas, we celebrate the coming of God in the humility of a Child into His own creation destroyed by sin. What it means is that a new Adam is born, and a new World order created. Hence, man, prefigured in the old Adam and the olden world are redeemed. Here, it is important to note that as created by God cannot grow old. The only thing that makes it obsolete is sin. So when we talk of old world, we are indirectly referring to a defected version of God’s original created order. And it is this defect, this ontological imperfection that Jesus Christ came to redeem on his birthday.
So, in a way, it’s not just Christ’s birthday. It’s more of our birthday too. Though baptism is defined as a sacrament of rebirth, Christmas foreshadowed the world’s rebirth from its ontological imperfection occasioned by sin.
That God, the unmade Maker, came into the world he created, in the innocence and defenselessness of a Child, to reform the deformed created order is too marvellous a miracle!
Forget what you have known and believed about this feast. You are a Christian already that’s why it was easy for you to accept it. Just imagine for a moment, how Hinduists or Buddhists or Atheists would see it.
Till this day, Jews, in whose city and kindred, Jesus was born had refused to believe the story!
The logic is that God cannot be born (as to have a birthday). But, the evidential fact is that His coming into his own creation in flesh and blood as Emmanuel, which theologians call the Incarnation is His swift plan to reborn our nature disfigured by disobedience of old Adam into a new glorified figure moulded by Christ’s obedience.
Similarly, His resurrection which we call Easter prefigured our re-emergence from the darkness of sin into the light of righteousness which He represents.
It cannot just be seen through the prism of mere birthday. It is, in reality, our elevation to a new realm. We need His birth more than He ever needed it.
So it is somehow about us more than it is about Him!
And that’s why Prophet Isaiah would exclaim: “Unto us, a Child is born, unto us a Son is given” (Is. 9:6). This must have explained why the feast could not be obliterated into extinction when many forces (even within Christendom) tried to trash it into the waste bin of history for more than ten centuries.
To do that successfully, many christian denominations, tagged it the “pagan feast of the Roman sun god.” And when that propaganda failed, they resorted to its lack of biblical validation. That one failed too, because the salvation story is larger than the provision of any one book. Then, they gradually started identifying themselves with it. Today, they host Christmas carols, retreats, revivals, carnivals etc in their churches.
Some credited this eventual turnarounds to the tenacious steadfastness of Catholic magisterial authority in propagating the import of Christmas in the economy of salvation. But for me, I credit it to the enduring work of the spirit of Christ that has refused to allow the gates of Hades prevail against His kingdom (Matt. 16:18).
If today, after centuries of vehement resistance, majority of christian sects adopt and celebrate Christmas as the “terminus ad quo” (the starting point) of the salvation plan of God, then it is thanks to the silent inspiration of the holy paraclet in the minds of God’s children (1Jn. 3:2) that the feast is for our own edification more than anything else.
And now to confirm that we celebrate His birth as a prototype of ours, we are called to give alms, show love, succour the needy, and resonate the joy of a new born Babe in the manger of our lives!
We are called to enrich the modern world which had turned into the Bethlehem of poverty by being generous to one another in the spirit of the season.
Hence, it is all about us!
It is about our own participation in the mystery of the birth of the Saviour Who came that we may have life and have it in abundance (Jn. 10:10). In our individual birthdays people give us gifts. In this birthday of Christ people give us gifts too. And in proper reciprocity, we become gifts to one another as well. We exchange gifts, especially the gift of warm affection, true love and joy.
It doesn’t matter how unpleasant your present situation in life is, God has became Emmanuel for your sake! And you owe it a duty to reflect this abiding divine presence to others.
It is in the twist of these interchangeable personalities between the Emmanuel of God in Christ and the elevated divinity of man, that the mystery of Christmas is mirrored fully. It is the birth of Christ in us. And we can live forever more because of Christmas day!
Christian theologians like the archbishop of our opening quote raised a subtle caveat to help us not to despair because of our corporeal conditions thus: “the Christmas message is not that peace will come automatically, because Christ is born in Bethlehem; that birth in Bethlehem was the prelude to His birth in our hearts by grace and faith and love. Peace belongs only to those who will to have it. If there is no peace in the world today, it is not because Christ did not come; it is because we did not let Him in.
Happy 2021 Christmas my people.
We are not just Easter people, an Alleluia nation; we are Christmas babies too — co-celebrants with Christ the new born of Bethlehem (Gal.3:29; Titus 3:7).
Now gulp down your drink and say Merry Christmas!