This Christmas, let's ponder the awesome reality of the Nativity

A man prays in front of the star in the grotto of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, Dec. 17. A star marks the spot where it is believed Jesus was born. (CNS photo/Debbie Hill)

“I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord” (Jeremiah 1:19b).

During this Christmas season, we remember this truth: that our God is with us (see Matthew 1:23b), that He in fact became one of us, took on our very flesh, embraced as His own the entirety of our humanity except sin. And He became man in order to “deliver” us from that sin, which is our primary separation from Him. He said, “For this I was born and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice” (John 18:37b).

At this time of year when we so easily get caught up in the glamour of the gifts and the giving and in the sweetness of the Nativity crèche, it is important for us to stop and think about the profound reality of what we are celebrating. The truth of the Incarnation — of the Word of God becoming flesh — scandalized many of the Jews of Jesus’ time. When He stated clearly that He was the Christ and the Son of the Most High God, they convicted Him of blasphemy and condemned Him as worthy of death. Earlier in His ministry, when He proclaimed to them that He and the Father are one, they sought His death by stoning or by seeking to hurl Him from a cliff. They told Him, “We are not stoning you for any good work but for blasphemy. You, a man, are making yourself God” (John 10:33). Of course, if a mere man were claiming to be God, this would be a horrible blasphemy. But what the Jews couldn’t see because the Man in front of them was so human, was that He was also in truth their very God.

Why would God Himself take on the limits of His creatures? Who among us would even consider doing such a thing? And yet God, in His infinite love, completely pours Himself out for us. He came to be with us as one of us in order to deliver us from our sins through the gift of His salvation won for us in self-sacrificing love on the cross. He came to show us the awesome depths of the Father’s love for us and to be an example for us of what it means to live a life of holiness and union with God. He came to share His very life — the life of the Trinity — with us. He came because, when you are head over heels in love with someone, as He is with us, you want desperately to be with them and never to have them separated from you. 

This Christmas, let us recognize the awesome reality of His presence among us, as one of us. Let us ask ourselves what it is in our lives personally from which He wants to deliver us: broken relationships that need healing, sinful patterns that need conversion, fears that need to be replaced with freedom and trust. Let us allow the Savior who took on our flesh to enter into the reality of our humanity once again and to transform us as we share in His divine life.

Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.