Jesus’ birth occurred at a moment in history, but Son of God has always existed
Living the Word/By Kim Padan
Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord/Dec. 25
At the Vigil Mass: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 89:4-5,16-17,27,29; Acts 13:16-17,22-25; Matthew 1:1-25
Mass During the Night: Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalm 96:1-2,2-3,11-12,13; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Mass at Dawn: Isaiah 62:11-12; Psalm 97:1,6,11-12; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20
Mass During the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98:1,2-3,3-4,5-6; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
For several weeks, Catholics prepare for the coming of the Lord during Advent. On Christmas, we all rejoice and say, “He’s here!” But one of my favorite passages of Scripture tells us He has always been.
Readers of this column are familiar with the beautiful story of the Nativity of our Lord. Many of us have some sort of Nativity set in our home or on the front lawn. We sing “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “Silent Night” with hearts raised to heaven. I cherish this season and these traditions. The profound pro-life message of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph’s protection, and Jesus’ birth warms my heart. Yet there is more to ponder.
The first chapter of the Gospel of John is proclaimed on Christmas morning. If you attend a different Mass or hear a different passage (they’re all beautiful!), I encourage you to meditate on this verse: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . .” (John 1:1)
I love the poetic sound of these words, but they are quite mysterious. St. John Chrysostom (347-407) noted that the other three Gospels began very differently with genealogies and narratives. In contrast, he suggests John the Evangelist began his Gospel account this way to “lead away from this fondness for earth those who were like to fall into it, and to draw them up toward heaven.” (Homily 4 on the Gospel of John) Indeed, how good it is for us to reflect on the deep mysteries of our faith!
A few verses later we hear: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. . . .” (John 1:14)
FULLY HUMAN, FULLY DIVINE
Jesus is the Word. He is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Son of God. While the Incarnation — God taking on human flesh — occurred in history, the Son of God has always existed. He became fully human without losing His full divinity. Speaking of the twofold nature of Christ, St. Leo the Great (400-461) said, “Nothing is wanting there on either side; in the majesty the humility is complete, in the humility the majesty is complete.” (Sermon 54)
A precious human baby who will save the world . . . sleeping in a manger. Absolutely incredible.
As difficult as it is to understand these hard truths, I find great comfort in them. Why? Because God has always intended to be with us! He has always desired deep, abiding relationships with His people. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “The Son of God assumed human nature in order to accomplish our salvation in it.” (461)
Psalm 98 expresses what this salvation ought to feel like. In fact, the verses of the psalm included for Christmas morning tell us to “sing” five times! The joy we proclaim is because we have “seen the saving power of God.”
So what do we do with this Christmas joy? Let us be like the sentinels in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. Let us be the feet that will bring glad tidings to our families, friends, and neighbors. Tell them “Our God is King!” Let us announce peace to a divided world by giving witness to the God Who saves. The message of the Gospel isn’t an easy one, but it is the message that the whole world needs.
KIM PADAN is a member of St. Paul Parish, Danville. The immediate past president of the Peoria Diocesan Council of Catholic Women, she now chairs the Spirituality Commission for the National Council of Catholic Women. She is formation director for the Mary Magdalene Chapter of Lay Dominicans, based in West Lafayette, Indiana.