The Christmas season may recently be over, but the Christ child remains in our hearts all year long.
I love the Christmas season. I love it for the lights and music and excited anticipation I see in my grandchildren and every other child, but mostly because the divine love given to us in the incarnation fills my heart. Such a love is unfathomable. All I can do is take in its warmth. God made man. God is with us.
I feel sad for those who have not had an encounter with Christ, do not know or love him, and who do not live within the nurture of the Church.
At best, Christmas for the unbeliever is superficial traditions, unfocused songs of vague sentimentality, and a silly flaccid caricature of St. Nicholas we all know as Santa Claus. The world often refers to the true meaning of Christmas but rejects the true meaning of the incarnation.
Christians refer to Advent from the Latin word Adventus meaning “coming.” The Apostle John begins his Gospel by setting the cosmic stage for the incarnation. He says Christ was the pre-existent Word—the eternal Wisdom or the divine knowledge and being that was with God and was God.
It should be noted that Jesus himself referred to His pre-existent state when He prayed, “So, now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed” (John 17:5) and again in verse 24, “Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
The human mind is incapable of plumbing the truth of John’s statement. All I can understand is that Jesus wants me to be with Him forever.
We know from John’s words that the word (Christ) created all that exists, culminating in the creation of life. That life is illuminated by the word who is light of the world. So profound is the light of Christ that it is described as light and life. John says Christ “the true light, which enlightens the world, was coming into the world.” The incarnation. Adventus: the coming.
“The word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory,” John said from firsthand experience. God is still with us 2,000 years later.
Yes, God is with us and calls you and me to Him, through the atoning sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ at Calvary. If Christ had not stepped through time and into a cradle in Bethlehem, He could not have staggered under the weight of a cross to Calvary to solve the problem of human sin and evil and reconcile us to a perfect God. What a gift!
OPEN THE GIFT
But as with every gift, it must be received and opened. As in John the Apostle’s day and at the incarnation, Christ comes to humanity, but much of humanity will not accept Him or His gift of salvation and forgiveness of sin. We read in John 1:11, “He came to his own, and his own people did not know him.”
The apostle continued: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God” (1:12).
Through Christ we can become God’s children led by the Holy Spirit. What great love God has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! That is what we are through faith in Jesus Christ. Through Him we can know God.
Jesus is the gift of Christmas made freely available to you and me who believe in His name and place our faith and trust in Him.
Christ has been with me even in my darkest moments of degenerative multiple sclerosis and cancer. A message too profound for words was there: “Be not afraid, I AM with you.” It is my supreme comfort even in the terrors of disease.
Fear and consolation exist together; tears of sorrow and tears of joy flow together. No matter how sick I become, I know I will yet stand face to face with Christ and finally know as I am known. I will understand fully the pain and the gift.
Words will fail me but the word does not. The mystery of Advent will be revealed in the cosmic eloquence of the resurrection. We will be with God just as God has been with us.
Mark Davis Pickup has lived with aggressive multiple sclerosis for over 28 years. Although electric wheelchair dependent, Mark has spoken across the United States and Canada promoting the sanctity, dignity, and equality of all human life. He has addressed politicians and legislative committees (both Canadian and American), university forums, hospital medical staffs, religious and denominational leaders, community groups, and organizations about the critical importance of protecting all human life from conception to natural death. Mark is also a widely published writer on bioethical and Christian issues. He writes a column for Canada’s Western Catholic Reporter newspaper. Mark is the recipient of numerous awards including the Monsignor Bill Irwin Award for Ethical Excellence, the William Kurelek Award for fostering respect and appreciation for the dignity of human life (Canada), and a Governor General’s Medal for Community Service.
This article has been reprinted with permission and can be found at http://www.wcr.ab.ca/Columns/OpinionsStories/tabid/70/entryid/6185/Default.aspx.