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Injecting Divinity into Humanity

The Gospel reading this Christmas Day - from the beginning of the Gospel of John - is a profound statement of what God has done for us: "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us". We Christians believe that God became a real live human being in history, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and celebrate this event every year at Christmas.


But why did God do this? This Christmas reflection is my attempt at an answer.


I don't think we can fully grasp the meaning of Christmas separate from the entire history of humanity - from our creation in the distant past to our ultimate end in the future. So, let's start by looking more closely at the beginning of the first book of the bible (Genesis, Chapters 2 and 3), the end of the last book of the bible (Revelation, Chapter 21), and how the Gospel of John (especially John 3:16-17) fits in the middle.


Genesis tells a story: God creates the first man and woman (Adam and Eve) and allows them to live in the presence of God in this beautiful garden called Eden. It includes a tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and God tells them not to eat from it. But they do, and God banishes them from the Garden of Eden.


One view is that God punished them for being disobedient. I think that view misses the point. Go back and read Genesis 2 and 3, paying attention to the state of mind of Adam and Eve. First, they were tempted not to trust God. Then they disobeyed God. Afterwards, they blamed and accused each other and the serpent. That's what the knowledge of good and evil does - it enables us to judge others - which is God's job, not ours.


Adam and Eve then hid - but look at what happened next! They did not die and God did not banish them immediately. Instead, as Genesis 3:9 says, "The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: Where are you?". From the moment after the very first time they acted against God, God sought them out, and led them to confess what they had done and to recognize the state that they were in. Only then were they banished. But why?


Perhaps they were banished, not as a punishment, but because God did not want them to live forever in that state where they distrusted God and judged each other (see Genesis 3:22-23). They needed to learn mercy and to trust God again. They needed to be healed of their distrust and lack of forgiveness.


So, if you'll bear with me, let's think of this banishment as a kind of spiritual quarantine, to allow them, and all of the human race descending from them, to be healed. Imagine the human race in sort of a spiritual lockdown until we are cured. Now, what would be the cure? Like some physical diseases, we are not capable of overcoming this spiritual weakness on our own. With that as context, read John 3:16-17:


"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him."


Into this banished and broken humanity, God injected divinity, in the person of Jesus, to heal us. God gave us opportunities to learn how to trust Him, by believing in Him, in His Word, in His Church and its Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Confession. We encounter His Mercy in the sacrament of confession. And, we are given opportunities to learn to be merciful, by serving and forgiving our neighbors. All this healing and these encounters with mercy in this world prepare us to dwell in eternity with Him.


And what happens at the end, after we are healed? What will we be prepared for? Here is what Revelation 21 says:

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”


What more do we need from God to know that we are loved?


Pope Benedict XVI said, "The source of Christian joy is the certainty of being loved by God, loved personally by our Creator, by the One who loves each one of us with a passionate and faithful love, a love greater than our infidelities and sins, a love which forgives.”


This Christmas, imagine God calling out to you like he called out to Adam, out of love: "Where are you?". My Christmas hope is that we all can encounter the mercy of God in a way that brings us certainty that we are loved by God.


May your Christmas be filled with Christian joy.

Yours in Christ,

Peter

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