Christmas is a mystery. In some ways, it’s a familiar story about a birth under less than ideal circumstances, like so many births. But, it’s also an utterly fantastic birth. A boy- child without human father born of a virgin mother; heavenly choirs of angels sing tidings of this birth to simple shepherds; a new star appears in the heavens to mark the site of the birth and strangers travel from faraway lands to pay homage.
We talk about the Incarnation but we really don’t know what we are talking about when we do. The Word, the creative principle of the cosmos, fully becomes flesh yet continues to be fully the Divine. What does that mean? There seems little room for such an unreasonable possibility. It’s entirely unreasonable. For centuries, Christians have tried to wrap their heads around this birth. The whole premise is beyond possibility. And that’s at least part of the reason why we have these stories so beyond possibility about a birth so utterly unreasonable.
Christmas is mysterious because it’s about being human. That boy-child, when he grew into manhood, taught us that being human, really human, is about love. Christmas is about love come down. It’s love that ultimately lies behind these great mysteries. In Jesus’ birth, the God of the universe took the risk of love to become a small baby in a lowly manger. God chose to take on the substance of humanity to love us not only as God loves but as human beings love. The Word became flesh in order to love us with “divine-human” love. God loves us that much.
When I meet people in spiritual direction, I often say that we have come together to have a conversation about that person’s prayer life. And that is true. It would be equally true if I were to say that we are having conversation about love. Prayer is mystery too. It is a mystery because prayer is also about love.
I want to quote a passage from our Rule as I attempt to explain what I’m talking about. In a chapter on intercessory prayer the Rule says: “Through faith we see Christ not only in his majesty in heaven, but in his lowly presence in every creature. He suffers with and in everyone in need. Our intercession does not call down the divine presence to come to the place where we have seen a need, for the Christ who fills all things is already in that place. It is his Spirit who calls us to join him there by offering our love in intercessory prayer and action, to be used by God for healing and transformation.”
This is a terribly important spiritual principle to grasp this morning. Our intercession, our prayers for others do not somehow drag God down to pay attention to what we think God ought to notice. No, the Word made flesh that fills all things is already in that place of need. When we pray for others, it is the Word calling you and me to join with nothing less than the divine creative principle of the cosmos there, in that place of need, by offering our love in intercessory prayer and action, by being willing to be used by the Word for healing and transformation whatever the situation may be.
You see, all the people we love in our lives, God loves them, too. In fact, God loved them before we ever did, and God will always love them more than we ever could at our very best. God loves and adores them infinitely and for eternity, just as much as he loves and adores you and me. We can say that because we believe that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
So whenever you love someone, remember that God was there first, and your love for that someone is a shared love. You always share your love for that person with God.
Let me tell you a secret. Unbeknownst to you or me, God is the one who invited you to join him in loving that person. He has worked in your heart and shaped your life since the day you were born so that you could join him in love for that very special person.
God will always love your loved ones more than you ever could. None of us is God, and we should never think we can be all in all to anyone all the time because only God can be that. Saint Francis was once overheard in the night by his host where he was staying. Francis prayed just one prayer through the night over and over again, “Deus et omnia mea,” “My God and my all.”
Only God is with us from our first heartbeat to our last heartbeat, and only God can satisfy our ultimate needs as human beings. Saint Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. But the love of another human being – love both received and given – can go a long way towards meeting our needs and satisfying our hearts. “He was in the beginning with God.”
To love another human being as much as you possibly can, with all that you have and all that you are, goes a long way towards understanding the love that is Christmas. Whatever love we have for one another — whether imperfect and flawed or wonderful, rich, full and lasting — whatever love we have IS the love of God
God invites us into his love for others whom he already loves and will always love, just as much – no more, no less – than he loves you and me. The truth is God invites us into his love, into sharing his love for every man, woman and child alive today. God invites us to love every human being and all of creation. “All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” God invites us to enter into his very self, into who he is. Love.
This Christmas, and for over 2,000 Christmases, God has issued an invitation to the world to share his love, and that invitation is Jesus, the Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us and nurturing us, God incarnate, God becoming one of us in our humanity, God enfleshed in a little baby in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. As Father Sam Portaro puts it, “No broad gesture or display of power, no bold statement reveals God, only the manger. In the inconsequential birth of an insignificant child, in an inconspicuous place surrounded by the innocuous and ingenuous, the ineffable was incarnate. In the smallest was revealed the greatest, and nothing would ever be the same.”
That little baby grew into a man who revealed the God of the universe to us, a humble God who completed the invitation by dying on a cross to save us from our sins, to save us from sins that we have committed and the sins of others that injure us, to save us from our sins and to open the doors to eternal life. “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.”
Walk through that door this Christmas. Meet the God at the heart of all the loves you have ever known in your entire life: the love of parents, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, relatives, friends, spouse, or partner. Meet the God who has always been there loving you through all your loves, take his hand at the door of your heart and walk into God’s love each day and then you will begin that eternal day of God’s infinite love.
Christmas is a mystery because it’s about love.
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