What is Christmas about, really?
It’s obviously more than celebrations and decorations and songs –
all this fun has to be about something else, right?
Even if a lot of people don’t seem to know that, or remember.
Christmas is even about more than a child being born
and shepherds adoring.
The angels told the shepherds, that the child being born is a “sign”;
a sign points to something still greater.
So what is that greater thing that Christmas is really about?
It can be summed up in the words of St. Athanasius, who said:
“God became man so that man might become God.”
Let me repeat that, so you really hear it:
“God became man so that man might become God.”
Yes, he really said that. And so did a lot of other
fathers and doctors of the Church.
It’s in the Catechism, paragraph 460.
What does this mean?
It means more. That you and I are for more; made for more.
More than 99% of what occupies our time, bad, good or indifferent.
You and I are meant to be life-givers and world-changers.
To be saints. Saints Louis & Zelie Martin – have you even heard of them?
They were an ordinary Catholic couple,
striving to get each other and their children to heaven.
You’ve heard of their daughter: St. Therese of Lisieux.
Yet she, too, decided she would not do any great thing,
but do lots of little things out of great love.
Her little way captured hearts around the world.
St. John Vianney was a poor student, a humble priest.
He spent his life in one small country parish,
and most of that time, in the confessional.
They came from all over France to see him.
Mother Theresa was called to care for the poorest of the poor.
All she did was bathe and feed beggars, one at a time.
She moved the world.
You and I are called to be saints.
A saint is that person who accepts the Christmas Gift:
That God became man so that men and women might become God.
What does this mean? It explains everything about the Gospel;
it is what the whole Bible, the whole of God’s actions with humanity, are leading toward.
God wants us to be with him, united with him,
transformed by him, made new in a New Creation.
To live in him, and he living in us, in a new heavens and a new earth.
Up until about the age of 25, we want to get older. We can’t wait!
But then, who wants to get old? Where is it leading us?
If only to decline and death, nothing is more depressing.
But what if it’s leading to something new?
Jesus was born among us to give us life – he could have mailed it in,
but he came in person.
He put himself on the cross of suffering that we all face.
Christ led the way into the valley of death
and came back victorious in his resurrection!
He did that to show what life he has in store for us –
and what makes this life worth living, no matter what. Why?
Because God became man so that men might become God.
This is what baptism begins and confirmation continues.
This is what confession restores when we turn off the path of life.
This transformation is what the Holy Eucharist nourishes.
And this is the meaning and purpose
of the consecration to Jesus, through Mary,
which we will make together at Mass on New Year’s Eve and Day.
For this reason, the number one enemy of the human race
is not hunger or war, unemployment or sickness or even death,
as terrible as those things are.
No, our greatest enemy is sin, because none of those other things
can separate us from God and lead us to hell.
So when people try to tame Christmas, and say, it’s about a baby,
a family in trouble, such a nice story…aren’t the lights pretty?
Isn’t this a special time?
This is an awesome time! But what makes it so…
Is that God became man so that we might become God.
I know that sounds impossible. Grandiose.
Perhaps it even sounds a little blasphemous, but it’s not.
Only God is God. But he chooses to lift us up into his life;
to be, as St. Peter says in one of his letters,
“partakers of divine nature.” God created us in Paradise; but we left.
He has wanted us back ever since.
When God gives, he is not like us: he holds nothing back.
So what did he give to the world on Christmas? His very self.
And again on the Cross? And again on Pentecost?
And again in each of the sacraments?
What does he give us in the Mass, to feed us and transform us?
His very self. What does he hold back from us? Nothing!
Still, we might ask: why come as a child?
Because then a child can come and say, I look like God.
Because when God is born poor, and lives poor and hidden,
then all those who are forgotten and neglected,
can behold the Savior and say, I look like God.
So that when the child grows up and is abused and wronged,
all those who are oppressed in this world can say, I look like God.
And when Jesus suffers and dies,
all those facing pain and death know they are not alone,
and that God has wounds, too. Wounds he is not ashamed of.
What is Christmas about?
Christmas is an invitation.
The God-man, the Christ Child, he invites you.
You’re here in his presence, right now.
He offers himself and all his Gifts to you.
To make us divine; to make an exchange:
your life to him, and his to you.
That’s the invitation. What will you do?
Post script: In case you’re wondering, who else said it?
Gregory of Nyssa
Cyril of Alexandria
Clement of Alexandria
Theophilus of Antioch
Hippolytus of Rome
Maximus the Confessor
Basil of Caesarea