Today, Christians throughout the world celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ. This is the saving mystery by which “the Dawn from on High” has broken upon the human family.
In the midst of the world’s darkness and confusion – from the threat of nuclear war, the negligence of refugees, poverty and homelessness, wars and torture, betrayal and violence of every sort – God the Son comes to humanity as the Light of the World.
He comes as a needed rest and a welcomed breath of fresh air. As the Prologue of John’s Gospel records: “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his light brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
When the Son of God came in “the fullness of time,” it was not as a removed figure falling from the skies. He was not born from the mind of his divine father or from a peculiar sexual encounter, as was commonly said of divinities within the ancient myths of Greece and Rome. The Son of God was not a ghost or a theophany of some sort that merely appeared to be human.
On the first Christmas Day, the divine Son was born as a human being and experienced all things truly human. Throughout his life and teachings, he showed humanity its dignity as the children of God and taught the human family how it is to live.
As the Second Vatican Council observed: “For, by His incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united Himself with each man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will and with a human heart he loved.”
The Second Person of the Holy Trinity took on human flesh and was born in Bethlehem. He came as the fullness of all God’s revelation since all that humanity had discerned of God through the light of natural reason and all that was supernaturally revealed to humanity about God was brought together and completed in him.
At the beginning of time, humanity fell from grace by turning away from its loving Creator and was on a path of darkness, confused about itself, the meaning and purpose of life, and the summons to goodness and holiness. The Lord Jesus, fulfilling the prophetic call exemplified in God’s encounter with the Prophet Isaiah: “Whom shall I send?” “Here I am, Lord, send me!” freely chose to come and save what was lost. He came as Light and entered into the shadows and iniquities of the world.
Jesus Christ is true God and true Man. He perpetually reveals humanity to itself and points it to truth, beauty and goodness.
The reality of Jesus Christ revealing humanity to itself is exemplified by the Florentine poet Dante, who in his masterpiece The Divine Comedy, saw the face of God in this way: “That circle, which appeared in Three generated as a reflected light, being awhile surveyed by my eyes, seemed to me depicted with our face within itself, of its own very color; wherefore my sight was completely set upon it.”
In the great poem, Dante sees a human likeness within the Godhead. The poet is stressing the point that Jesus Christ is a true human being and that he discloses humanity to itself. By understanding the human identity of Jesus Christ, humanity can see an even brighter reflection of itself and feel an even greater call to what is true and good.
As expressed by Pope John Paul II: “In the Incarnation of the Son of God we see forged the enduring and definitive synthesis which the human mind of itself could not even have imagined: the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face.”
The Lord Jesus, therefore, does not teach humanity as an outsider but as a human being, as someone within the human family. In approaching Jesus Christ, therefore, humanity can see greater light and more deeply understand its own dignity.
This is the enlightening gift and the pressing challenge of the Lord’s birth. It is the light shining from the Judean Hills seeking to dispel confusion and darkness and offering the human family clearer answers on its own identity and greater paths of peace for the world today.