At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. But what does this birth really mean? What does this tell us about God and His familiarity with us?
Blessed John Henry Newman gives us some insight into the Mystery of the Incarnation, a term which derives from the Latin word meaning ‘to take on flesh or human nature.’ Jesus became incarnate, took on human flesh, in the womb of His human mother, Mary, and this is a great mystery. God loves men with the human nature He created to the point that He takes on our human nature, to become one of our family.
Newman says this to Jesus in a prayer:
“This was, O dear Lord, because Thou so lovest this human nature which Thou hast created. Thou didst not love us merely as Thy creatures, the work of Thy hands, but as men. Thou lovest all, for Thou hast created all; but Thou lovest man more than all. How is it, Lord, that this should be? What is there in man, above others? Quid est homo, quod memor es ejus? yet, nusquam Angelos apprehendit— “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” … “nowhere doth he take hold of the angels.” Who can sound the depth of Thy counsels and decrees?”
We do not think often about this divine condescension, but we can now, for a moment. Jesus could have chosen to take on an angelic nature but He did not.
Newman continues marveling at yet another manifestation of God’s love:
“Thou camest not only a perfect man, but as proper man; not formed anew out of earth, not with the spiritual body which Thou now hast, but in that very flesh which had fallen in Adam, and with all our infirmities, all our feelings and sympathies, sin excepted.”
Next Newman addresses Jesus to acknowledge further the Mystery of the Incarnation:
“O dearest Lord, Thou art more fully man than the holy Baptist, than St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, than Thy own sweet Mother. As in Divine knowledge of me Thou art beyond them all, so also in experience and personal knowledge of my nature. Thou art my elder brother. How can I fear, how should I not repose my whole heart on one so gentle, so tender, so familiar, so unpretending, so modest, so natural, so humble? Thou art now, though in heaven, just the same as Thou wast on earth: the mighty God, yet the little child—the all-holy, yet the all-sensitive, all-human.”
This wonderful mystery, which manifests God’s love for man, equally manifests the humility of Jesus Who hid His divinity by taking on our human nature and becoming a little child, requiring the constant care and affection of Mary and Joseph.
How can we react with pride? How can we fail to learn from Jesus in the cave at Bethlehem? St. Josemaría Escrivá invites us to contemplate the humility of the Child in the cradle at Bethlehem. He writes: “Even though he is only a child, unable to speak, I see him as a master and a teacher. I need to look at him in this way, because I must learn from him.” We must also learn from Mary and Joseph, who know they are very little, and act with profound humility. The Virgin and her chaste spouse know themselves to be fully at the service of God.
During these days leading to Christmas and during the Octave, in which we will be busy with the visits of family members and attending various celebrations, let us take time to marvel at the Mystery of the Incarnation, and God’s immense love for mankind.
Rather than allowing ourselves to be overwhelmed by the concerns of the holidays, let us consider how Jesus wished to be born into a family, and give of ourselves generously to others as He did. And, thinking of Jesus becoming a Child, let us ask Him to make us more humble.