It is not the manger scene, not the angels appearing to the shepherds, or the magi coming from far away to offer homage to the child in the manger that fills us with awe. It is something far deeper, so deep that only child-like innocence can see it and stand before it with wide-eyed, open-mouthed awe. It is something that is seen only with the humble eyes of faith. And when it is seen it changes everything.
Bishop Robert Barron, reflecting on the birth narrative put it this way, “We find ourselves struck with genuine, speechless awe before the sheer profundity of this event, this event which brought about the unification of some of the deepest polarities of existence: the unification of the human with the divine; earth with heaven; time with eternity; the finite with the infinite, all in one person, the person of Jesus Christ.” In that birth, in that stable in the little town of Bethlehem, this unity became a reality.
The world at this moment is being torn apart by the spirit of division. It has always been so, but with the modern capacities for instant, worldwide communication, not just in terms of print media, or voice, but in live pictures, the unspeakable horrors that arise from the spirit of division, in all of its many forms, are before our very eyes 24/7 on our TV and cell phone screens. And we are rightly horrified. This spirit of division comes from the enemy of God. It is found in divided homes, in divided communities, in divided societies, and in this divided world. That spirit manifests itself in destructive, ego-driven lies, in all forms of abuse, and in unspeakable cruelties of every conceivable kind.
The worst manifestation of this spirit is seen in wars like those we are witnessing today. And we are shocked by the unspeakable, unreasonable human suffering. Even more sadly, this spirit of division is in the church. This spirit of division in the Christian Church is the greatest of all scandals. We are challenged by the great mystery of the incarnation, that is, the birth of Jesus, to ask this question of ourselves: If the People of God could be moved with true, child-like awe at the stunning reunion of heaven and earth, the infinite and the finite, that the incarnation made real again, instead of being so divided by the spirit of division, within and without, how might the world be different today? The Church is charged by God with the responsibility of showing the world the way to this unity with God. In reality, we need to pray hard for forgiveness for the divisions in the church and for the grace that is needed to heal the wounds of our divisions. The birth of Jesus made what presently seems impossible to us, eminently possible. And this possibility is more real than all of rationalized excuses, and propaganda that the spirit of division uses to explain and defend its horrors.
It is proper, then, for we Christian believers to stand before this birth of Jesus, the incarnation of God in human flesh, with humble awe. For it is only in child-like awe that we can begin to see that this birth brought about the reunion of heaven with earth, just as it was united in Eden before The Fall. In this birth, our own humanity is once again united with the divinity of God who molded Adam out of the clay by the river. What joy! Only when we see this event of the birth of Jesus with the humble awe and wonder of a child will we be able to see that the spirit of division that is so present in the world and the Church is really nothing more than a foolish lie. To see this changes everything. It is only in humble, loving union with Jesus and with one another, that the true peace, justice, and happiness we so naturally and dearly desire, is made possible.SKM: below-content placeholder