Christmas is not about celebrating Jesus birthday. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus’ birth is a significant part of Christmas, but what we honor on December 25th is not his birthday, it is his incarnation. This can be seen in the Gospel reading for Christmas day, which is John 1:1–18. This passage nowhere mentions Jesus birth account but instead is an account of the eternal generation of Christ and the advent of his light in the world. Christmas is about much more than the story of a baby born in a manger. It is the inauguration of the paschal mystery through which the God of the universe begins his redemptive work of restoring the world to Himself. Christmas is the feast of the incarnation, but what does this mean here are four key takeaways:
The incarnation is God’s Word to us:
God did not choose to communicate who he was to us in a philosophy, a volume of theology, or in a puzzle that needs to be decoded. God gives expression of his love in the universal language of flesh and blood and offers the world a grace that communicates the totality of human existence – humanity itself. Jesus comes to us in a form we all know: human life. It doesn’t need to be translated or converted. He comes as a person we can know and have a relationship with. He is the “word” become “flesh” (John 1:14)
The incarnation is the root of our inclusion in the family of God:
At Christmas, we remember that God chose to adopt our life in all of its brokenness so that we might be adopted into the life of God in all of its fullness. In baptism, we receive the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul calls the “spirit of adoption” (Romans 8:15). In that spirit, we are able to call God our father and through that spirit, we are made brothers and sisters to one another in Christ. Yes, Jesus was born on Christmas, but we are also born anew into him (2 Corinthians 5:17). Christmas is a celebration of God’s family!
The incarnation is the root of our sacramental life:
At Christmas, we honor the central mystery of our faith. The God of the universe became incarnate in Jesus Christ becoming our primordial sacrament. At Christmas, we remember the highest outward sign of the inward grace God offers to the world. We are able to receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist because he took on a body in the first place (John 6:55; Luke 22:19; 1 Cor. 11:24).
The incarnation underscores the sacredness of human life: As we are often overwhelmed with the waves of humanity running frantically to prepare for the holiday, it is easy to forget that each person we encounter – from the rude cashier to the exasperating relative – is a reminder of God’s preferred philological form. God chose human life. God didn’t abandon humanity for their deficiencies instead God entered into the tumult with us. There is nothing we encounter, outside the blessed sacrament, more holy than another human being (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
I pray that you find new joy this holiday season and encouragement to follow the Lord Jesus Christ more closely.