Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 22, 2019

The Joyful Mystery of Christmas

After four long weeks of waiting and preparation, the great and joyous feast of Christmas is well within reach. It is at Christmas that we celebrate the coming among us of God as man, and indeed as a “little tiny Child” and “poor youngling” (from the Coventry Carol). Truly “Emmanuel” (meaning God-with-us) makes His dwelling with us and thereby demonstrates just how much God loves us: to the point of allowing His Divine Son to be humbled to the point of taking on weak humanity (cf. Mt. 1:23; Jn. 1:14; Phil. 2:6-11). Could there be a greater abasement? A greater paradox? And yet, as He usually does, God does not follow our own logic (cf. Is. 55:8-9), but rather chooses this most (seemingly) disconcerting of ways to manifest His love.

What is more, this is indeed an epiphany (manifestation) of His love, and not some ethereal or theoretical one at that. Rather, this love is something, nay Someone, we can point to, experience, and interact with. He is Jesus Christ, at this time celebrated as an Infant wrapped by His loving Mother in swaddling clothes. “O great mystery, and wonderful sacrament, that animals should see the newborn Lord, lying in a manger! Blessed is the virgin whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord, Jesus Christ. Alleluia!” (Responsory from Christmas Matins).

“Cold on His cradle the dewdrops are shining;

Low lies His head with the beasts of the stall;

Angels adore Him in slumber reclining,

Maker and Monarch and Savior of all!”

(from the hymn Brightest and Best)

Can anything be more precious? For as we gaze on the manger scene, we see the very One whom the heavens could not contain embraced by the Woman Who had held Him in Her womb for nine months. “O marvelous exchange! Man’s Creator has become man, born of the Virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share our humanity” (Antiphon I of Evening Prayer for January 1st). Certainly, then, this is a time to celebrate! For God has come to us to save us, to teach us, to love us, and to make us fully human and fully alive by freeing us from sin.

We cannot approach such a great feast unmoved. It in fact requires something of us. St. Leo the Great put it well in one of his Christmas homilies: “Christian recognize your dignity and, now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return to your former base by sinning. Remember who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Never forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of the Kingdom of God” (from a Christmas homily).

As we celebrate this wonderful day and season, then, please know of our prayers for each of you and your families. May your final preparations for and celebrations of this Christmas help you along your path of holiness. Please pray for us as well!

And to each of you, a blessed, joyous, and Merry Christmas!

Fathers Keller and Brown

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