Reflecting on the nativity — God at work
Christmas is a favorite family time when eating and exchanging presents inspire a kind of frenzy for all generations. For children, the excitement over presents creates suspense and expectations beyond any other event in the year.
Christmas and the festivities arouse much anxiety for adults. This year the worry will probably be even greater because of the current economy. Most families are thinking there will be fewer presents. The big issue will not be finding the toys children and grandchildren want; but the concern will be the affordability of gifts.
The economy may actually help American families devote more attention to the joy of sharing time with each other. Ideally, families will seek ways to show love and affection in non-materialist ways. Perhaps we will rediscover the joy of sharing family stories about traditions and family history reflecting the family’s values.
Even when we stop thinking about shopping and gift giving, we concentrate on the material events of Jesus’ birth.
One time when I wrote a Christmas column, I rediscovered the majesty of Mary’s exclamation of praise we have called the Magnificat, Scripture that has been turned into a marvelous hymn by Randy Gill. That marvelous passage shifts attention in the right direction.
All the pageants about the birth of Jesus keep attention on the setting and the trappings. In my day at elementary school, children playing the part of Joseph and Mary were turned away from house after house until they were shown a stable where their baby was born. The parade of angels, shepherds and wise men accompanied with those favorite songs — “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Away in a Manger,” “We Three Kings of Orient Are” — providing the background for the story.
It is truly a wonderful story.
But this is one important time when the circumstances seem to overshadow the significance of the event. Since Adam and Eve, every person born into this world has a unique beginning at the moment of conception.
The soul, whenever it develops, is a new creation. It has never existed until that moment when life began.
Not so with the baby born to Mary. It had its physical beginning when the Holy Spirit hovered over Mary and miraculously produced a new human life. But the new human life had existed as God from the beginning.
Jesus is the only human who existed before his conception. His new being was a fleshly incarnation of divinity that was the creative force working in the opening of Genesis. John 1 explains the creative working of the Word that made all things and then became flesh and dwelled among men.
This is the greatest miracle of God. Great as the opening of the Red Sea under the staff of Moses was, this miracle is greater. Great as Elijah’s show of God’s power at Mt. Carmel was, God becoming flesh and blood as a fetus is greater.
My mind stumbles at the immensity of God’s power in bringing his son into the world as a new life, a life that is human and divine at the same time.
The marvelous event of Jesus’ birth challenges our understanding, but supports our faith. It is the prelude to his life where he showed love and service as the power of God to save mankind. His example of life gives testimony that God came near and we were able to see his glory — glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
The birth of Jesus heralds the sacrifice of divinity to save mankind. This powerful, miraculous transformation prepares us to understand the tragic triumph of Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection slightly more than three decades later. Through the years, I have always considered the resurrection as the greatest of all miracles because it is the foreshadowing of our dying to sin in baptism, and the promise of our resurrection with Jesus.
Now I understand the connection of these marvelous works of God.
At this time of the year, when the world is looking to Bethlehem for comfort, we can help others look deeper at God’s working for man’s welfare.