sin. How we respond to them is what matters. They present us with a field of choice, inviting us to believe and to trust.
Sin is an abuse of the freedom to choose given to us by God. (par. 1733, CCC) Our capacity to freely choose to love is what constitutes the "Imago Dei", the image of God in each one of us. That capacity to choose was wounded by the "original sin", the great rebellion. Freedom was fractured and the cross is the splint which restores it. Because of sin, all men and women have a propensity to make wrong choices. Classical western theology calls it concupiscence. We could not overcome its effects on our own. We needed to be "saved" by one like us.
Because He has been born we are given a new Way on which to walk. We are invited to live our lives "in Him". We have been given what the beloved disciple John calls the "power to become the children of God" (John 1:12) By grace we now have the capacity to choose to freely love and be transformed into the Image, and the likeness, of Him who is Love incarnate, Jesus Christ. We are made "partakers of the Divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4)
This Savior who pitched His tent had room for everyone within His loving embrace! He still does, within the embrace of His Mystical Body, the Church. He loved ALL men and women-not just the "loveable", or the "pious" In fact, He was known to associate with "sinners", like everyone of us. And in that association, he gives us the graces we need to be converted and made new by cooperating with Him and living our lives in His Body.
He was fully human and fully divine. He lived the fullness of the human experience in a very real body with real emotions. He laughed, cried and wept. He perspired and felt fatigue. In fact, He felt every emotion and in Him our emotions can be transformed. The early Church Father Gregory the Theologian (Nazianzus) , reflecting on the Incarnation, proclaimed "Whatever was not assumed was not healed!" The entirety of our human experience was assumed by Jesus. He is now at the "right hand" of the Father in a Resurrected Body! The work of salvation and redemption will only be complete in each of us when we too are raised up with Him.
This claim sets our faith apart from every other major religious tradition. We proclaim the salvation of the whole person and the entire cosmos, upon His return. Do we understand the implications of this? Or do we live the Christian life as though our bodies and the created order are somehow "bad" or less "spiritual". We profess in our ancient Creed that we believe that we will live in resurrected bodies in a new heaven and a new earth for all eternity in an eternal communion of love. Yet sometimes we live as though the physical, and the human, is somehow divorced from the spiritual. It is not.
The "flesh" (in Greek, sarx) that the scripture warns of as a source of temptation is not our body, which is good, but our tendency to sin. The "world" that we are warned not to befriend in the letter of St. James (James 4:4) is not the created order (which God made as a wonderful gift for us and called "good" in the creation account) but the system that attempts to squeeze the Creator out of His creation and invites man to live as though he does not exist.
Because Jesus Christ has been born, we are now given a new Way on which to walk. We have been given what the beloved disciple John calls the "power to become the children of God" (John 1:12) Through grace we receive the capacity to choose Love and to be transformed into the Image, and the likeness, of Him who is Love Incarnate, Jesus Christ. We can be born again, anew, in Him whose birth we celebrate.
Christmas invites us to live a unity of life; to become comfortable "in our skin" by being fully human, enjoying life, living and loving as Jesus lives and loves; beginning now. Sometimes, Christians live lives that are perceived as anything but fully human. Who is drawn to a man or woman whom they feel will not have empathy for their own weakness? However, they were and they are, drawn to Jesus Christ. He wants to live in us and invites us to live in Him.
Christmas reminds us that in the "fullness of time" God came among us. Heaven touched earth and earth has been elevated through this encounter! The all- powerful God who made both heaven and earth became a vulnerable baby and chose to give Himself to His creation in order to create it anew.
The eternal entered into time. The separation between the entire human race and the One who fashioned us for Himself has been bridged. This Child whom we come to adore is our Redeemer, Our Savior, and Our Deliverer. Through His Saving Life Death and Resurrection, He begins the New Creation. Oh the mystery of this moment, the grandeur of this Feast of the Nativity!
We sometimes miss another profound foundational truth of the entire Christian Mystery. The Incarnation continues through the Body of Christ and in each of its members! The Word still "becomes flesh" in and through each of us who have been baptized into Him, into His Body. His tent is still being "pitched" among all men and women. That tent is His Body, His Church.
Together, we who are now incorporated into Him through Baptism as members of His Body are called to spread the tent-pegs and make room in the tent of the Church for the entire human race. The same Word through whom the Universe was made is the Word through whom it is now being redeemed and re-created. That transformation will finally be completed when all things are reconstituted in Him in the new Heaven and New Earth.
On the wonderful day called Christ-Mass, the world pauses at a manger. The great event of the Nativity of the Lord touches every man, woman and child. The world is presented with the Christian proclamation that "the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Let those of us who bear the name Christian manifest the fruits of the Incarnation and the deeper meaning of the Nativity of Jesus. Let us be a Christmas people and offer through the witness of our lives the greatest gift of all, Jesus Christ, to a world waiting to be born.
Merry Christmas! O Come Let Us Adore Him: Love is born on Christmas Morn and the whole world is Born Again.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Christmas, Merry Christmas, Nativity, Incarnation, Nativity of the Lord, Santa Claus, Birth of Christ, Deacon Keith Fournier
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