Lectionary Readings: Is 52:7-10 / Ps 98 / Heb 1:1-16 / Jn 1:1-18
Note: This reflection is based on the readings for Mass During the Day. Unfortunately, the Canadian Lectionary readings are not made available online for this specific set of readings. Therefore, a link leading to the American translation is used instead.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”John 1:14
The Masses of Christmas comes with a variety of readings – precisely four options provided for the four different Masses from Christmas Eve to Mass during the Day. Most of them vary between Year A, B and C. However, the readings for the Mass During the Day of December 25 remains the same throughout the Lectionary Cycle. Therefore, if you go to Christmas Day Mass, the excerpt of the first chapter of John is read, the Gospel of the “Logos”.
The Mystery of the Incarnation is the central theme throughout the Season of Advent and more so throughout the Season of Christmas. Yet, what is it with the Incarnation, what is it with this “Word made Flesh” that Catholics are fussing about this Christmas while the secular world is busy chasing after Santa Claus or in stores buying Christmas gifts and hosting Christmas dinners?
Throughout Advent, we read of the prophets, most prominently, Isaiah and John the Baptist telling people to repent, and “prepare the way”. They were awaiting the fulfillment of the promise that was made back in Genesis 3:14–15 after man committed the first sin. God prepared a nation, a chosen nation so that the Saviour could be born in.
Earlier in December, we celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, in which we celebrate Mary, conceived without Original Sin. God, wanted to prepare a womb in which the Saviour could be born in.
The events prior to the Incarnation are geared towards the coming of a Saviour. For outsiders, they may ask, “Why so much preparation for a baby to come?” It is essential to understand that all this preparation is to welcome the “Word made Flesh”, a promise that was made to the first people, a promise that meant the God was going to be born and live among his people.
As we know, Jesus was not born in a palace, nor was he born in a hospital. It is striking, the images I have seen circulating on the internet of the story of the Nativity being depicted not with the beautiful images we are used to seeing in the western world, but rather, the Holy Family as migrant as refugees. The Holy Family in reality were migrants and refugees. They were in reality homeless people. Jesus was born homeless, in a manger. They fled to Egypt to escape persecution. God literally became flesh and dwelt among us sinners and even taking on homelessness, migrant and refugee status – again, I emphasize, dwelt among us.
Having a rough start life in the beginning, royalty did not even come to him. Three years of public ministry, he called the poorest of society to follow him. Some saw him merely as a “Son of the carpenter”. Some saw him a guy living in the same neighbourhood. He was looked upon as a threat by political leaders at the time. Many hated him. Some saw him as a law-breaker. Some saw his teachings to be odd. He dwelt among us.
After three years of public ministry, one of his followers denied him. He was public ally tried. People called for his crucifixion. He was cruelly scourged. He was crowned not with gold, but with thorns. He was made to made a heavy beam. He fell under the weight of it. He was literally stripped of all he had. His deathbed was a rough t-shaped instrument of torture with nails pierced through his hands and feet. He was laid in a tomb that was not even his. He dwelt among us.
When facing trials, I have heard some say, “God does not know the pain I am going through.” Well, I think that is ignorant to say. God did not come on earth, as mentioned, in royalty. He took upon himself every human suffering – the worst – per say, so that he may immerse himself in every aspect of human life, in all but sin. It is through the “Word made Flesh” that God comes to be among his people in totality.
When seeing the birth of Jesus through fine art, especially when walking through the churches of Europe, seeing the various scenes depicting the Nativity of Our Lord, we see a beautiful Christmas story. Unfortunately, while the Nativity is depicted in such solemnity, the reality is that those depictions only reveal one side of the Nativity story. The Holy Family were migrant and refugees. They were homeless people. They were foreigners. They were not welcomed by others. I think that they had some fears, they had worries of what would come to them. However, both Mary and Joseph wholly trusted in God’s plan for them.
Sometimes, we, like the people of the time of Jesus, failed to recognize the mystery of “Word made Flesh,” because when we humans seem to have already have a perceived image of what God is. For some, God is a king, sitting on a throne with a gold crown on his head. Then for others, God is a man with a white beard sitting up in the heavens. We tend to imagine God as something so far off, has nothing to do with human beings. Yet, it is because of those perceptions, I think, that the doctrine of the Divinity and Human nature of Christ has still not met agreement between Christians. God being human is just something hard to accept for some. However, the fact that Jesus came down to earth as “Word made Flesh” happened, 2000 years ago – it is reality, it is the truth.
This Christmas, as we gaze on the Nativity Scene within our churches, let us be reminded that the “Word dwelt among us,” Jesus came down to earth not in royalty, but how St. Paul states that Jesus, “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” (Phil 2:7). We pray for the many migrants and refugees who are walking in the footsteps of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We pray for those who are homeless this Christmas whom Jesus, Mary and Joseph once were. We pray that these people, marginalized in society, may, like the Holy Family, trust in God’s providence.
However, we pray that people all throughout the world may see the presence of Jesus in every person we meet, even those marginalized in society, because Jesus said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, you do it unto me” (see Mt 25:40). May the image of the Incarnation of Our Lord, and Saviour Jesus Christ help us to see Jesus clearly in our brothers and sisters because if we see God in those whom we meet, I am certain that the way we treat one another will be completely different.
Reading and understanding the story of the Nativity, the story of “Word made Flesh,” should help us to see better the way God comes to be among his people and therefore, we will be able to recognize that God truly wants to be among us, and to save his people.