This year marked the 10th annual Hallmark Countdown to Christmas, which means holiday movies 24/7 starting in October. These movies are characteristically very sappy romances with predictable endings. And people love to watch them. But, the story of our salvation is a love story far more epic than any Hallmark movie. In the miracle of Christmas, God humbles himself, coming down to our level, to develop personal relationships with us and to bring us closer to Himself, the source of all joy and peace.
One sign of God’s humility is that He aligns Himself with our most basic need - food. Isaiah speaks of the coming of the Messiah in terms of a joyful harvest, where all are sharing a meal. Then in the Gospel, we read about Jesus being born in Bethlehem, which is Hebrew for House of Bread, and he is laid in a manger where animals eat. God, the Creator of all things, relates himself to something we chew up and swallow. Hardly sounds like something a king, much less a god would relate himself to. And we see this fully realized in the Last Supper when Jesus tells his disciples, “Take this and eat. This is my body.” Every time we go to mass, we experience this great mystery, and are reminded of God’s extreme humility as he meets us at our most basic need.
The appearance of the angels also reinforces God’s humility. The angels announce Jesus' birth to a group of lowly shepherds, rather than to any seemingly more important members of society. They tell the shepherds that they will know they have found the Messiah when they see a baby laying in a manger. This is the Messiah, who has been foretold for centuries, who will deliver God’s people from oppression! And yet he comes as a baby cradled in a trough of hay where animals eat, inside of a simple barn. In this humble form, he is approachable and invites us to come closer.
Finally, we see humility in Jesus' family. In the Gospel, Mary gives birth to her "firstborn son". As Catholics we believe that Mary was ever-virgin and her only child was Jesus. So what does that mean? Let's flash forward to Jesus hanging on the cross, when he says to his disciple, “behold your mother”. At this moment, Mary becomes the spiritual mother, not only of that disciple, but of all humanity, making us all her children, and thus brothers and sisters of Christ. We become members of Jesus’ family. That our God deigns to make himself a spiritual relative of us is a shocking testament to his love.
The miracle of the incarnation is the manifestation of God's desire to bring His creatures closer Him, the ultimate source of happiness! “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this”, Isaiah says. The zeal - the passion, the love - for us is what drives God to come down on our level, develop intimate bonds with us, and unite us to Him for all eternity.
Let us rejoice, then, in the God's great love for us this Christmas!