Christmas Day - Fr. Pete Iorio
December 25, 2020 - 8:30 AM, 10:00 AM
Most people know the Christmas story from Luke’s perspective since it tells of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and Jesus being born and placed in a manger. Luke, like Matthew, includes a genealogy of Jesus' ancestry, and it goes all the way back to Adam, (and Eve) thus embracing the whole human race. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s plan for all human beings. That is an awesome truth.
Today on Christmas Day, we do not hear a human list of names, nor Mary or Joseph, but we learn of the cosmic origins of Jesus the Christ. The Gospel of John goes back to God Himself. John is the only Gospel writer who does not stop at Bethlehem to explain the “reason for the season.” John is more concerned with the WHY and WHO of Christmas than with the WHERE of Christmas. So, he travels to eternity to reveal the person of Jesus Christ. This is a great passage because it gives us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful Name is the Word – LOGOS in Greek. The reading tells us that the baby in the manger is the “Word of God,” the very self-expression of God. He was present at creation; He is the One through whom all things were made.
John's Gospel gives a profoundly theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God's love. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, he leaves no doubt as to the reality of his human nature. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He explains later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and in Matthew’s Gospel“You are the light of the world” (Mt 5: 14-16).
Between the beautiful Nativity stories of Matthew and Luke and the Gospel of John, there lies the great paradox of the Christian faith, the paradox of the Incarnation, the entering of God into the human story, in human form.
Great truths can only be revealed to our small human minds on small stages. The Christmas story is the concrete frame to reveal universal truths. This is important in understanding the development of Scriptures and the understanding of Jesus the Christ. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke which contain the stories of the Nativity of Jesus were written much earlier than the Gospel of John which we hear this morning.
When Jesus was born, his mother laid him in a feeding trough where animals eat straw. What is this saying about the nature of God? God goes to the lowest place on earth. There is no room for God in the place where travelers stay. These are metaphors of contrast. The divine infinity is contained or limited, vulnerable in the swaddling clothes and feeding trough. God has overcome the gap. God is hiding and now God is revealing His very nature which is cosmic – beyond time and space. This is what John is talking about when He writes: In the beginning was the WORD.
The mystery of the Incarnation means that God has hidden himself in a little human body. It is the perhaps the last place that we humans would think to find God.
God is love, and God is both Almighty and all vulnerable. God is this mystery of paradox. If God is equally all vulnerable as God is almighty, then God is in human suffering, with those who have COVID-19, those stuck because of a snowstorm, with those who grieve.
God came to us because he wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving toward the house of peace and joy. This is the great mystery of Christmas that continues to give us comfort and consolation: we are not alone on our journey. The God of love who gave us life sent his only Son to be with us at all times and in all places, so that we never have to feel lost in our struggles but always can trust that he walks with us.
The challenge is to let God be who he wants to be. A part of us clings to our aloneness and does not allow God to touch us where we are most in pain. Often we hide from him precisely those places in ourselves where we feel guilty, ashamed, confused, and lost. Thus we do not give him a chance to be with us where we feel most alone.
Christmas is the renewed invitation not to be afraid because Emmanuel, God is always with us. He is the light of the human race.