The annual celebration of the birth of Christ has come and gone. We have prayed and waited again, symbolically, during the four weeks of Advent, through the ever shorter, darkening days of winter, for the coming of the Lord, the Wonder Counselor, the Prince of Peace.
The annual celebration of the birth of Christ has come and gone. We have prayed and waited again, symbolically, during the four weeks of Advent, through the ever shorter, darkening days of winter, for the coming of the Lord, the Wonder Counselor, the Prince of Peace. We have, once again, been filled with the wonder and the joy of the great mystery of the incarnation in the circle of our Church communities. We have shared our joy at table with our families and friends. Many of us even made special efforts to bring some semblance of the love and care of our Savior to the poor, or the homeless on that day as well. Today’s devotional reflection give us a means to deepen our understanding of why this day is so important to our faith lives.
Paul writes to Titus: ʺBut when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.ʺ
In these brief words we see ‘the reason for the season’ clearly defined. Our Savior came, not because of our righteousness, but because we were sinners in need of his unconditional love and mercy. God emptied himself, taking on human form, being born as an infant into human history, in order to pour out his infinite love and mercy on us in human flesh, through His only begotten Son, Jesus. From here on in the liturgical year, we will follow the story of our Savior, Jesus, all the way up to and through the events of his death and resurrection at Easter time.
During the Advent season, we read about John the Baptist who told us that he preached a repentance and a baptism of water, but that the One who would come after him would baptize us in the Spirit. Jesus has done this for us. Because of the incarnation, God has, through his Spirit, generously ʺpoured out on usʺ his infinite grace. It is through the Incarnation of Jesus that we have ‘become heirsʺ once again, of the eternal life we were made for in the beginning. We did not deserve such a magnanimous generosity of love. What God did for us in Jesus, is the very definition of divine love. Though we are sinners; though we have turned away from God in small and in great matters, he still loves us. He still wishes to wash us clean, to renew our lives. We can see the depth of that love in Jesus. We know that we are ʺthe people who have walked in darkness,ʺ who in faith now can joyfully say that we ʺhave seen a great light.ʺ (Isaiah 9:2) In Jesus, we Christian believers, two thousand years after that history changing event, know what Isaiah meant when he prophesied, ʺHere is our God, who has vindicated us with divine mercy, who has saved us, who has opened our once blind eyes, who has cleared our once deaf ears. (Isaiah 35:4-5) (paraphrased)
What is the reason for the season then? Because of God’s infinite love, we can celebrate, not just the birth of a babe in Bethlehem, but that through that generous act of divine love we are, once again, ʺheirs to the hope of eternal life.ʺ Now, in our daily lives, it is up to us to give thanks for this love by living like people who really are heirs to eternal life. The rest of the story of the Jesus is a narrative revealing the way to that eternal life. Let us, then, in faith and hope, read and pray over this narrative every day. But, more importantly, let us make it our own story as well. Let us walk with Jesus. Let us open our hearts to receive his graces to live as he commanded us to live by loving one another, even our enemies, as he loved us. With his grace, let us be courageous, faithful, full of hope, and moved by unconditional love, as best we can in our frailty. After all, we are the people who know that God is with us. Emmanuel! Let us live like we really do believe that. Amen!