December 25th, 2020
Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
What do you celebrate today? Whose birthday do we celebrate?
It is the birthday of Jesus Christ. And who is this person – Jesus Christ – whose birthday we celebrate today. You might think he is a cute little baby, a beautiful little baby and he is that but there is more … Oh so much more and it is this “so much more” that I want all of us to focus on this Christmas morning.
Who is this child? And why is this child here? First – who is he? Do you know how big the universe is? There are many ways to try and describe how big it is but I’m going to describe it by numbers and with a picture (given by an astrophysicist). Imagine the universe as a sand castle where every grain of sand was a star (a sun). If this sandcastle was to represent the size of the universe it would have to be five miles high, five miles long and five mile wide. Did you get that: 5 high, wide and long. Oh – and it is still expanding.
If you are a numbers person – lots of accountants in this parish! – then our sun can hold 960,000 Earths (and it is a small sun). The biggest known Sun is called “The Big Dog” – it can hold seven quadrillion Earths (did you get that!). If you began to count right now to 1 million it would take you eleven and a half days. If you counted to a trillion – it’d take you thirty-one thousand years. Counting a quadrillion seconds? Thirty-one million years. You can put seven quadrillion earths into the biggest star which is just one of hundreds of billions of stars. This is described in one of the densest verses in Scripture: Genesis 1:16: “… he made the stars also.”
Is your head blowing off yet! Are you getting the magnitude of this!
This is mind boggling – it can wow the brain and make it hurt at the same time. Well – this universe that is still expanding was made by this baby AND it is be sustained in existence by this baby.
Now does that begin to make an impact on how you answer the question: who is his baby, who is this child? This child is God, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity. The power that it takes to bring everything into existence is way beyond you and me. Imagine if this God – who made all this and sustains all this came to us as he really is. How would we respond? We’d probably be terrified. So what does God do – he comes to us as a baby who arms are reaching out to us.
Why is this child here – why did the word become flesh?
The Church gives four main reasons:
Number one –This baby is here is to save us by reconciling us with God. To be clear – this baby is here – for war! He is here to save us from sin and that means savings us from someone and from something – from sin and the devil. Sin is that which separates us from God, from the people we love and even from ourselves. This baby is here to save us – to believe anything less is to water down the reality of why this child is here and the importance of this day.
There are many people who just stop there. They think that Jesus came into the world to save us from sin and hell. While this is true it is only the beginning.
The second reason he is here is to reveal God’s love to us. St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that that God could have saved humanity simply by declaring us to be forgiven. But he didn’t do that, he chose to become man and then go to the cross to show us that he doesn’t just want to save us, but that he loves us. And he knew that in the incarnation and the crucifixion, there would be no greater way to show us that he loves us, than to become man and then go to the cross and die for us. “For greater love hath no one than this, that he lay down his life for someone else / for his friends” (see John 15:13). So, God wanted to show us that he loves us, and he does that through the incarnation and the cross.
He wanted to save us. He wanted to show his love for us. It doesn’t stop there. The third reason is that he also wants us to love him in response to what he has done for us. He could have just made, saved and shown his love for us and that was it. But he actually wants us to respond to him with love – but freely, not with force or any coercion. And in order to help us do this he shows us how to love His Father and in loving his Father to become holy. This just can’t get any better – but it does! There is one more reason.
The fourth reason the Catechism teaches why this child is here is perhaps the greatest of all. He is here in order that we might have a share in the divine nature. In other words, to make us sharers in his divine life. There is a very powerful passage in the Catechism, quoting some of the Saints: “this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God” (CCC 460). And then again, this is from St. Athanasius, “the Son of God became man so that we might become God” (CCC 460). And then finally, St. Thomas Aquinas, this is most staggering of all: “The only begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (CCC 460).
When parents look at their new born baby they are awed and think “look what we did.” Isn’t that true all you moms and dads?
Well – when you look at this baby – look up at the sky, look at a cross, look into the crib and finally look in the mirror and think “look what he did … for me.”
My brothers and sisters – this is the mystery of Christmas that lays there in the crib, right there on the cross and now this God who creates, rescues, loves, wants to be loved and desires to unite us to himself … this God is going to be right here on the altar in the Eucharist because this God doesn’t just walk away or go into retirement. He is with us! Merry Christmas!