‘God with us’ reveals deep meaning of human existence

“Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11).

Christmas is a great mystery because it is true. If Christmas was not true, if in fact the baby born and laid in the manger was not God, who redeemed us by dying and rising for us, then Christmas would not be a mystery because we would no longer be thinking about it. Much less would we be giving the Christ child the fullness of our adoration. But Christmas is true and so it is, indeed, a great mystery. It causes us to ask the question, “How can it be that God became man?”

When the shepherds arrived as the angelic envoy to the stable in Bethlehem bearing within their hearts the expectant joy of the human race, they found “Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger” (Lk 2:16). We should not be too quick to pass over these words of the Gospel. The simplicity of the scene is like the simplicity of God, an unfathomable mystery to us because our vision cannot see things how God sees them. The shepherds approached the Holy Family with the greetings of the angels still fresh in their minds, and were the first to realize the mystery of Christmas: God has chosen to save us by becoming one with us.

The presence of Jesus in the creche marks the “fullness of time” (Gal 4:4) when human hearts rejoice because God has visited his people. Jesus is “Emmanuel, God with us” (Mt 1:23)! The fact that God freely chose to be our savior precisely by being “God with us” reveals the deepest meaning of human existence. The dwelling of God is with men (Rev. 21:3). The great philosophers who came before Christ thought this to be an impossibility. The modern philosophers who rejected the historical truth of Christian faith scoffed at this as wishful thinking. In our own time, the belief that God would care to dwell with men is a scandal to minds and hearts that have become unresponsive to the promptings of divine grace. But for the one who is open to seeing by divine light, this is the cause of immense joy.

Our celebration of Christmas brings us joy once a year. But this is only because it first really brought joy to a group of shepherds, in the town of Bethlehem, in the days of a king named Herod. How joyful our Christmas will be this year, if we follow the example of the shepherds in the Gospel, and approach the babe lying in the manger with the faith that he is God’s saving presence among us.

Merry Christmas everyone!

The Rev. Jadyn Nelson is associate pastor of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church and chaplain at Bishop Ryan High School, both Minot.