One of the things I appreciate most about the Christian faith is the special way it encourages us to understand holiness. Other traditions of faith, which very closely associate the idea of holiness with that of purity, have a tendency to maintain the strictest separation between that which is holy and unholy. In this way of thinking, the unclean thing renders the clean thing dirty; the pure thing is defiled by mere contact with impurity.
Not so to the Christian, and that fact has a lot to do with Christmas. The effect of the Incarnation, which is the underlying reality we celebrate during this time of year, is that God has worked a miracle of such momentous proportions that it’s sometimes difficult to conceive of just how deeply we, and our world, are changed. To the Christian, the impure and unclean thing, the sinner and the transgressor, stand in readiness to receive redemption; to be washed clean, and made new.
We are prepared to be utterly transformed, to be overwhelmed by the gratuitous grace which is God’s presence among us. And this is because, beyond the cultural complexities and socio-political intricacies we have built, like walls, around our different experiences of faith, the message is, and it cannot help but be, that our God is the God of Love. Deus caritas est.
It is a love that pursues us, that desires us, that seeks to incarnate itself again and again in our thoughts, in our words, in our actions. A love that would, if we allow it, raise us up to be participants in the restitution of this world to its rightful nature, expressing the limitless love of the One who made it and knows it in its wholeness.
This fact is made clear to us in the participation of that young girl (and Christmas is her story too!) who first said, “Your will be done.” The human being through whom the world was changed, forever. The young woman we have to thank for the birth of Love among us.
The impact of Christmas can sometimes pass us by, lost in the season’s hectic bustle. For some people, this time of year highlights painful memories, or the realisation that, while we are lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and family, there are individuals and communities who are experiencing great suffering at a time of such tremendous joy.
Most importantly, the Christmas message empowers you and me to know that we have a response to that suffering. We can carry our Christmas message into the rest of our lives. It reminds us that we are not abandoned in the face of what may appear to be insurmountable struggles. We have the ability to make a difference, in our lives and the lives of others, by making a choice to know and to share the mystery of love.
So while I celebrate Christ’s arrival in the world this Christmas, and as the Church looks to the Second Coming (towards which our world turns, expectant of its consummation), I’ll also remember that the incarnation can take place in every moment of every day.
The incarnation is echoed each time we allow ourselves to become instruments of peace and wellbeing, collaborators in the great work of celebrating and demonstrating the everlasting love which is the profoundest gift and the boundless nature of our God.
Photo Credit: Simon Borg