“For the Son of God became man so that man could become like God.” These powerful words of St. Athanasius reveal the reality of the Incarnation of Christ and the truth of the Christmas event. Christ’s Incarnation and entrance into our humanity reveals a divine love that is beyond our imagination. God who so loved us became one of us in all ways but sin so that we can once again know and experience the love of the Father and also come to know our great dignity and worth in the eyes of our Creator.
The tiny infant born in Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago is the most extraordinary and defining moment in human history. With the birth of the Christ-child, the human family and the human experience would never again be the same. For on that cold and peaceful night, God and humanity are once again forever joined in an inseparable union of the human and divine in the Person of Jesus Christ. To gaze into the eyes of the holy Infant is to gaze into the eyes of our loving Father who’s unconditional love was pledged to us in creation, offered over and over to us in the covenants of old, and is now permanently and fully revealed to us through Christ.
For in the Incarnation, Jesus once again fully reveals God to man; he is the complete and total revelation of the Father and is the revelation and restoration to man of that great divine love that created him, and that merciful divine love that has set out to redeem all of humanity from slavery to sin and brings all men back into communion with God. Pope John Paul II speaks of this “divine dimension” of the Incarnation, and what Jesus as the Son of God comes to reveal about the Father and his love:
The God of creation is revealed as the God of redemption, as the God who is “faithful to himself,” and faithful to his love for man and the world, which he revealed on the day of creation. His is a love that does not draw back before anything that justice requires in him. Therefore “for our sake (God) made him (the Son) to be sin who knew no sin.” If he “made to be sin” him who was without any sin whatever, it was to reveal the love that is always greater than the whole of creation, the love that is he himself, since “God is love.” Above all, love is greater than sin, than weakness, than the “futility of creation”; it is stronger than death; it is a love always ready to raise up and forgive, always ready to go to meet the prodigal son, always looking for “the revealing of the sons of God,” who are called to the glory that is to be revealed.” This revelation of love is also described as mercy; and in man”s history this revelation of love and mercy has taken a form and a name: that of Jesus Christ. (Encyclical Letter The Redeemer of Man, 24)
It is also through this union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ where God fully reveals man to himself. Through the Incarnation, Christ enters human history as the one and unique man who is not only the perfect reflection of the Father, but also shows each and every person his or her dignity and destiny as a son or daughter of God. God’s love and mercy for us is so great and profound that he clothes himself with our humanity and all that it entails in order to redeem and restore our human nature. Jesus reveals to man his divine likeness that had been disfigured by sin. He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” who communicates to us though his words and deeds the fullness of life for which man was created and to which he is called. As the Second Vatican Council states:
The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a type of him who was to come (Rom 5:14), Christ the Lord. Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling. He who is “the image of the invisible God” (CoI 1:15), is himself the perfect man who has restored in the children of Adam that likeness to God which had been disfigured ever since the first sin. Human nature, by the very fact that it was assumed, not absorbed, in him, has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond compare. For, by his Incarnation, he, the son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human Will, and with a human heart he loved. Born of the Virgin Mary, he has truly been made one of us, like to us in all things except sin. (Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, 22)
Therefore, through the Incarnation, Christ was fully human, and through his humanity united himself with each and every person in all times, places, cultures, and circumstances. By fully assuming our human nature and living a truly human life, Jesus redeems and restores each and every aspect of human nature and existence. The Incarnation of Christ first revealed at the Annunciation and seen in its fullness at Christmas reveals the incredible gift and dignity of each and every human being at every stage of existence. For Christ redeemed the human family from the first moment of conception to the last moments of death. Christ, the Son of God made man reveals once again the image and likeness in which we are all created and the profound amazement of God towards each and every person. This is the Good News of Christmas: we are no longer lost to sin, but are now forever joined to Christ who comes to heal and restore our humanity! This is the “human dimension” of the mystery of the Incarnation. As John Paul II powerfully states:
This, as has already been said, is why Christ the Redeemer “fully reveals man to himself.” If we may use the expression, this is the human dimension of the mystery of the Redemption. In this dimension man finds again the greatness, dignity and value that belong to his humanity…The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly–and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being–he must with his unrest, uncertainty and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. He must, so to speak, enter into him with all his own self, he must “appropriate” and assimilate the whole of the reality of the Incarnation and Redemption in order to find himself. If this profound process takes place within him, he then bears fruit not only of adoration of God but also of deep wonder at himself. How precious must man be in the eyes of the Creator, if he “gained so great a Redeemer,” and if God “gave his only Son” in order that man “should not perish but have eternal life.” (The Redeemer of Man, 25)
Therefore, as we once again celebrate the season of Christmas, may we contemplate anew the great love of God revealed in the holy face of the Infant born that night in Bethlehem and never cease to be amazed not only of God’s great love for us, but by the gift and dignity of every person who bears within them the image and likeness of God. May we also continue to work tirelessly as people of faith, hope, and love, to uphold and defend from the moment of conception to natural death the gift and dignity of each and every human being who has indeed been joined to Christ through the great mystery of the Incarnation. Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year!