We are all used to party political agendas. Weâve just survived an election season and although thereâs two years to go before the next general election, the television networks daily parade possible candidates before us and we hear their plans to transform America. We can count on their plans being expensive. To get them enacted takes a great deal of powerful persuasion. The more power and influence a politician can recruit, the better the chance of success.
Even then, transforming a nation, and more so transforming a world, isnât easy. Some of us remember the Sixties. We were sure that the Civil Rights Movement would liberate African Americans, women, and minorities. Much wonderful work was done. Yet drive through the inner cities today and one soon sees what was not done. Itâs almost as if legislators, secular and religious, get their enthusiasms, struggle to get them enacted and then forget about them and go on to something more exciting. Itâs easy to become cynical.
On the wider stage, we look at the world as it is. We see wars, civil disturbances, bigotry, tribalism, disease, and starvation. Nothing seems to change. Countries promise aid and then donât give it. We can look at the most frightful things on television while eating dinner. Itâs easy to become cynical.
âWait a minuteâ you say. âThis is Christmas.â
So it is. The great Gospel lesson from St. John echoes in our ears. It has just been read to us. We may not understand the profundity of its theology, but in these mysterious words, âIn the beginning was the Word,â we reflect on the extraordinary truth about Jesus. To the Greeks of his time, or some of them, the idea of the Word was a philosophical theory. Scholars suggested that there was a source of eternal truth and this source they termed The Logos: âThe Word.â There was nothing personal about the idea. It was assumed that only an educated elite would be able to contemplate truth.
The idea of an eternal Word tells us two things. The first is that thereâs a truth, an eternal truth to which we have access. The second idea is that this truth is communicated to us by God. âThe Word became flesh and dwelt with us.â St. John here says something extraordinary. The eternal truth of God, God communicating to us, is not a philosophical ideal for scholars, but a Person for us all. Jesus is the Truth, Jesus is God communicating. Jesus embodies Godâs agenda for the Church and for the world.
âThe Word became Flesh.â God entered into a human body. A young unmarried woman became Godâs Tent, Godâs Temple, Godâs presence. In the Old Testament we read about the Tabernacle or tent in which the presence of God dwelt. Later Solomon builds the Temple in which, in the Holy of Holies, Godâs Presence was to be found in a special manner. But now, through teenager Mary, God became human in obscurity and weakness, in a stable, surrounded by farm animals and filth. God became vulnerable and powerless.
It is easy for us to look at the crÃ¨che and see glory. In reality the crÃ¨che is an extraordinary symbol of Godâs identity with those who have nothing. The Holy Family, tired, homeless, Mary in labor, stumble into an abandoned, dirty cave. The floor is covered with animal droppings; the manger with old food. Itâs one of those cold Middle Eastern nights. Perhaps Joseph takes off his coat and puts it in the manger. âAnd the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.â
God intends an end to all wars, bigotry, famine, and disease. God has started the process. True, God uses politicians and the powerful, often without their knowing it. But God uses you and me, for as God became human in Maryâs womb, so God the Son, the babe in the manger, enters our humanity, changes us and sends us to change the nation and the world. That is what Baptism is all about. The transforming future is God at work in frail, powerless human beings who risk death, even the Cross in order to be reborn into hope.
We are those human beings. We become agents of Godâs purpose as we do as God wants us to do. We tell the Gospel story to others. We love one another. We work to transform the world by caring for the sick, the outcast, the starving, those in the midst of war and civil disturbances, those who know not God, and the drunk in the street, and the single mother abandoned by her parents. On this Christmas Day, accept with gratitude the abiding presence of the Christ child in your flesh and then, in him, go into the world to love and serve the Lord.