January 4, 2021
|Dr. Nick Stafford / pixabay.com|
We began the season of Advent with the liturgical antiphon and refrain, “Come, Lord Jesus!” We have continuously said this prayer throughout Advent in our contemporary circumstances of a spike in cases of COVID-19; of continued civil unrest regarding the political outcome of our presidential election; of the uncertainty of what the future holds regarding matters of religious liberty; of the scandal and doubt caused by the ongoing McCarrick issue and the reception of the report issued by the Vatican; of the mistrust of legitimate authority; and of the fears of economic hardships because of future uncertainty regarding employment for so many. “Come, Lord Jesus!”
God answers our Advent prayer of “Come, Lord Jesus” with His announcement made through His angels to the shepherds, and their response, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” As Catholics, our place is in Bethlehem in the stable with Mary and Joseph, with the angels, with the ox and the donkey, with the shepherds, at the manger-crib of Emmanuel. God has answered our prayers again by being with us amidst our fears with the offer of unconditional love and the gift of His peace.
God has made Himself small again and dependent on human love in the Incarnation, seen first in the birth of the Divine Infant in Bethlehem. His smallness drives away our fears and evokes a more human love and compassion than that rejected by Adam and Eve in Eden. God has made Himself small again and vulnerable in the Divine Infant, who from the moment of His birth in the fullness of humanity, shows us what our proper disposition should be in God’s presence: acceptance of His love and dependence on His grace.
Christmas is not only the celebration of the power of God over sin and evil. More poignantly, it is the celebration of humanity — the fullness of humanity not marred by sin but at peace with God. The humanity that is prone to all of the fears that were mentioned at the start of this article is now shown a renewed dignity and confidence in the birth of the Divine Infant, surrounded by His Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph — each of whom said “yes” to God where our first parents said “no.”
The fears that were mentioned at the start of this article dissipate, not because of wishful thinking or political planning, but because of the real truth that God is Emmanuel — He is with us and for us — and will never be against or away from us and has chosen to be so in the full humanity of the Baby Jesus given to us and for us in the manger of Bethlehem.
Our fears dissipate when in the Christ Child we recognize the vulnerability of each and all other human beings with whom we share our humanity as created and redeemed in the image and likeness of God. The dignity of every human being is not based in an abstraction but in the full and perfect revelation of God in the Christ Child, surrounded by Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem. Christmas calls on our response to let go of fear and embrace our God. He has made Himself embraceable as a little baby that we might embrace Him in the love of our neighbor by sharing what we have been given with confidence and peace: Emmanuel, God is with us.
We began the season of Advent with the liturgical antiphon and refrain, “Come, Lord Jesus!”