Christmas reflection, 2011 – By Father Jerry Gingras
I remember when I was just eleven years old. I was going to be an uncle for the first time. I was thrilled especially since I was so young and my uncles seemed so old (they were probably in their forties!!). The day came and first member of the second generation Gingras family was born, Vincent Paul. My first encounter with Vinny was at his house about a week after his birth. I was so proud; you might have thought it was my own child. My brother Dan, Vinny’s father, handled him with great ease even to holding him in the palm of his hand! When I was asked if I wanted to hold him, I almost froze! I had to sit down, secure myself in a chair, and take a deep breath! Then the moment came: Vincent was placed in my arms! I held him like I was holding the chalice: with reverence, care and honor. He smelled like baby powder and he looked…. well to be honest he looked like a little prune, full of wrinkles and eyes like slivers of almonds. I couldn’t believe how small he was and so delicate. I felt like he would break in half if I but move him a few degrees left or right. I was holding this new life, this tiny warm baby and I was the proudest uncle in the world!
For anybody who has held a newborn, you know what a joyful feeling it is. You know sense of wonder and awe that overcomes you. A human life in your arms! You also know hoe dependent a newborn is, how vulnerable, delicate and defenseless.
Now, pretend you are holding a child, this time the Christ Child. Imagine holding God in your arms! Blessed John Henry Newman said, “The great principle of Catholicism is the Incarnation, the enfleshment of God.” This means, as Fr. Robert Barron of Chicago states: “that the Word of God, the mind by which the whole universe came to be, did not remain separate from us in heaven, but rather, entered our world in a tiny vulnerable body. He entered into our complex history and took on this tear stained human condition of ours.” The Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us (Jn. 1:14).
God became human without ceasing to be God. In fact as the Church Fathers repeated so often, “God became human so that we might partake of the divine life:” that we might participate in the love that holds Father, Son and Holy Spirit in common. The Incarnation, Fr. Barron says: “is the central claim of Christianity.” God became human! This is still startling news even after 2000 years. The creator of the world took on a human nature and become one of us! Today we are able to hold this child in our arms. What was impossible, the union of Creator and Creature, eternal and mortal, has taken place for “all things are possible with God” (Mt. 19:26).
St. John reminds us that the birth of Christ brings light to our darkness, but this comes at a great price. The swaddling clothes remind us of the adult Jesus being wrapped in a shroud. So it is up to us to accept this newborn child into our hearts or reject him; to allow him into to the inn of our hearts, or to close the door, as there is no room in that inn. Those who choose to believe, see the light. Those who wish to remain in darkness do “not know him.”
Today’s celebration is not only Christ’s birth among us, but as Peter Feldmeier of America Magazine says; “but our birth in God.” We can come here today and ooh and ahh about the loveliness of the church and sing carol or two. But for Christ to be born in us, truly alive in us, it means walking away from the crib and embracing and living by the Light of the World, Christ the newborn King. It means following the example of Christ, being humble and willing to take risks. It means loving our neighbor, caring for the poor, the marginalized, the powerless, and the unborn. It means knowing that God loves us and is cherishing and sharing that love.