He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:10-14).
On the Mass of Christmas Day, the Church chooses to read the beginning of the Gospel of John, which includes the passage above. When “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” is proclaimed by the deacon, we all pause and genuflect or kneel to acknowledge the profundity of the statement. For Christians, and indeed the world, this is a seminal moment. We literally tell time worldwide – backwards and forwards – from this event. Even if there’s an effort to erase the concept of A.D. (Anno Domini – the year of our Lord) by papering it over with C.E. (Common Era), if anyone ever bothers to ask why the year zero is the year zero, the fact remains that it’s because that’s the year all of humanity implicitly recognizes that God Himself became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. At Midnight Mass, we read from St. Luke’s Gospel that “[Mary] gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7).
That is to say, He was born in a barn. To any non-Christian person, this has to be one of the most preposterous things they’ve ever heard. It’s such an amazing contrast that it’s almost comical. Imagine someone interrogating a Catholic about this belief, hearing this for the first time: “So you’re saying there’s a God, the master of the universe, who made everything, has literally all power, without whom nothing that exists could exist – and He was born in a barn? as a little baby? That’s crazy.”
Yes, it’s that bold of a claim. It’s easy for Christians to walk by a Nativity set, and think, “Oh, that’s cute, it’s baby Jesus. Christmas is nice.” It’s an image many of us have seen so many times that it can be easy to forget the mind-blowing, world-renewing nature of the event being depicted. God, the master of the universe, deigns to be born miraculously as one of His own creatures. The being that is infinite, beyond time and space, enters time and space. Not only that, he does it in a way that no one would expect – in hidden, humble circumstances. His mission to save humanity begins almost completely unnoticed by the world.
But we shouldn’t stop wondering in awe at this fact alone. Towards the end of the Gospel reading for Christmas day, John tells us the shocking reason that Christ came. “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” This is a new thing – as Catholics we believe this means that we now can partake of the very nature of God. That is to say, through Christ’s action, we can actually become like God – all of our wounds can be healed, our faults washed away, our brokenness made whole. He’s done everything He can for us, but we have a choice whether we receive Him or not.
If you’ve never given Christ a chance to come into your own heart, or you’ve slowly turned away from Him in some way, there’s no better time than now to invite Him in. The idea of inviting the God of the universe into your life might seem like an overwhelming, monumental task, but don’t forget that same God of the universe came into the world as a little baby. He literally took baby steps on His way to draw near to us, and that’s something we can do too. Take a short trip to the chapel and, in a hidden way, ask Him to let you receive Him. He came to “make all things new,” and that includes you.