“Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: ‘By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.’ (1 Jn 4:2) Such is the joyous conviction of the Church from her beginning…” CCC 463
Friends, the House-of-Bread Man gingerly came among us, a Baby bringing joy to the world! Lying on a manger where the animals ate, baby Jesus was visited by a few poor shepherds and three wise (and wealthy) kings that came to see Him. They proceeded to kneel in His presence – the first Eucharistic Adoration! The shepherds met the Good Shepherd while the kings met the King of kings. Just as a donkey was there when the Son of God entered the world, so too 33 years later, another donkey was there to help Him enter Jerusalem.
A man named Joseph had walked for days and was to walk some more very soon, all the way to Egypt, where another Joseph of years past, had once stocked the wheat and grain reserves to make bread so well, that he not only saved the Egyptian people but also his Jewish family, from whom one day, this same man Joseph would be born. This latest Joseph had the mission to protect, feed, and care for one who would one day multiply the loaves of bread, and save not just Israel or Egypt, but entire world! And then there was this woman named Mary.
When Elizabeth first saw her, her unborn son leapt for joy. An unborn child feeling the presence of another unborn child! King David too leapt for joy at the sight of the Ark of the Covenant centuries before. This Ark carried three unique objects: the tablets with the written words of God, the staff of first priest Aaron, and a mysterious, flour-like substance called manna. Marry carried within her “The Word made flesh” and if the little biology we know is true, the DNA of her Son stayed with her for the rest of her life. A popular saying goes: “No Mary, no Jesus; know Mary, know Jesus.” It may not be precise theology, but Mary is the Mother of God, and for that reason she is the most venerated human outside of Jesus incarnate. The Scriptures tell us she is “full of grace”, a title no other person, man or woman, has ever been given. The patriarchy of the Church continues to pay homage to the matriarchy of Jesus to this day.
The augury for this event was found all over the Old Testament, hundreds of years prior. Take the following examples: Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14), Bethlehem as birthplace (Micah 5:2), Herod kills the innocents (Jeremiah 31:15), and the sale for 30 shekels (Zechariah 11:12) to name a few. Fulfillment of these prophecies are found in Matthew’s account, 1:23, 2:6, 2:16, and 26:15 respectively. Dr Brant Pitre in his book, The Case for Jesus, makes many connections with old prophecies, but one in particular stands out because it speaks to events in the political world. He indicates that Daniel 9:24 predicts the birth date of Jesus and Daniel 7:13-14 describes the future references to the title “Son of Man” and the “Kingdom of God”. Daniel has a vision of four beasts coming before the kingdom of God representing about 490 years. The first kingdom is the lion and considered to be Babylon, the second is a bear represented by Medo-Persian empire, the third is a leopard representing Greek/Hellenistic empire, while finally, the fourth beast is imperial Rome. Daniel was written 700 years before Jesus was born.
As if this was not enough, then we add that for the birth of Jesus to fulfill these ancient prophecies, several acts by some of the worst characters in history were used for this very purpose. Take for example the census called by the Roman authorities which led Joseph to take pregnant Mary to Bethlehem (means House of Bread), or that an indifferent village meant He was born in a manger instead of a bed. Even astronomy was put to the service of our Lord (star), which G.K. Chesterton described as, “The Child that played with moon and sun, is playing with a little hay.”
Yet today, we have to remind our fallen culture to “keep Christ in Christ-mas”. Did the Western world suddenly suffer a bout of amnesia? In their book “Jesus Legend”, authors Paul R. Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd dedicated the initial part of their work to address the principle that there is no objective history. This principle came from the likes of Foucault and Derrida, who argued that words do not convey meaning and are “nothing outside the text”. In other words, you can never attain truth but only different perspectives. If there’s no objective truth and words are meaningless, then there’s no objective history either. This should sound familiar to us all, as schools and now streets get renamed. With this principle however, the authors argued that “If we abandon the concept of objective history, we must, for example, grant a neo-Nazi propaganda tract denying the Holocaust ever happened, the same hearing and status as a scholarly historical work chronicling the horrors of Nazi Germany.” The Holocaust happened less than 100 years ago and already is being denied in some circles – Christ’s birth was over 2000 years ago. Without objective truth, is it any surprise that so many young people deny or are indifferent to the Christmas story? G.K. Chesterton speaking about language itself, remarked that “The modern laxity of language has had a great deal to do with the ultimate laxity of conduct.” He said this way back in 1931, but applies as much today as it did back then.
Bishop Barron commenting on some of the statements that came out of last synod, affirmed that without truth, one cannot love. Here is how he put it, “There is no real tension between love and truth, for love is not a feeling but the act by which one wills the good of another. Therefore, one cannot authentically love someone unless he has a truthful perception of what is really good for the person. There might, I argued, be a tension between welcoming and truth but not between authentic love and truth.” You can read the entire article here. This means that someone that holds nothing to be objectively true, is incapable of truly loving someone. Reality is irrespective of anyone’s perspective. The “Word made flesh”, “God is love”, and “I Am the Truth…” keep coming to mind.
Stories have always had the power to bring the transcendent to even the most hardened cultures. One of my personal favourites has always been “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. In his book, The True Meaning of Christmas, author Michael Barber suggests that the story may be biographical, from real life experience where words like poor and hungry mean what they say.
Here’s the excerpt: [ “In his landmark work, A Christmas Carol, Dickens gave names and faces to the less fortunate. In Bob Cratchit and his sickly son Tiny Tim, he humanized the weak and downtrodden. This was not a difficult task for Dickens. He knew well what the plight of the poor involved. Scholars have shown that A Christmas Carol reflects memories of his own childhood. Bob Cratchit is Scrooge’s clerk – just as Dickens’ own father had worked as a clerk. When Scrooge dismisses those collecting money for the poor, he callously insists that the workhouses and debtors’ prisons “cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.” What readers did not know until he died was that Dickens’ own father had been sent to prison because of debt. The Cratchits’ home was a four-room flat located in Camden town – exactly like the place Dickens knew from his childhood. Dickens was able to personalize the experience of those in poverty because he had lived it himself.
Scrooge’s heartless rhetoric may seem overblown at times. Yet it was not far off from the kinds of cruel things Dickens would have heard people in his day say about the poor. At one point, Scrooge insists that if the poor would rather die than go to prison, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” As others have noted, Dickens here has Scrooge express a sentiment infamously articulated by Robert Malthus (1766-1834). In Malthus’ work warning about the problem of overpopulation, he disturbingly argues that since the world’s resources cannot sustain its peoples, it would be best for the poor and sickly to meet a premature death.
Whereas Irving (Washington) had presented a vision of “Christmas past,” Dickens showed what it could be in the present. And while its primary focus was not the story of Christ’s birth, it was also not a purely secular vision of the season. Scrooge is introduced as a “covetous old sinner” in need of salvation. But redemption cannot merely be about a personal transformation; it must include good works toward one’s neighbour.
One especially poignant scene is worth highlighting. Tiny Tim tells his mother that he hopes people see him in church because “it might be pleasant for them to remember upon Christmas day, the One who made lame beggars walk and blind men see.“]
Hark the Herald Angels sing! Glory to the newborn King!
Merry Christmas friends!
St Joseph – pray for us.
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