CHRISTMAS CONVERSION - "Called To Be Holy"
Christmas, the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word … is imminent! Our readings today exhort us to the meaning and purpose of the Incarnation, of Christmas:
Isaiah prophesies: “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son”: Emmanuel, the Holy One born of the virgin Mary, is divine and human … truly “God with us”, named “Jesus” because his purpose is, as the angel Gabriel says, to “save his people from their sins”. This means, as St. Paul says, we are “beloved of God … called to be holy”. Holiness is exemplified in Joseph’s response to the angel: “He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” He conformed his will to the will of God.
The meaning and purpose of the Christmas Incarnation must not be a fleeting celebration and remembrance. It must become for us a permanent, life-transforming experience, driven by the awesome LOVE of God. For us, this means we are called to CONVERSION of our lives.
First, especially in these last hours of advent, we must, in silence, ponder the great mystery of the virgin birth of Emmanuel. “The virgin shall conceive and bear a son”. No one anticipated the long prophesied Messiah would be truly divine, the Son of God, born miraculously… as the Church teaches. St. Augustine explains: “That same power which brought the body of the risen Jesus through closed doors brought the body of the Infant forth from the inviolated womb of the Mother.” Pope St. Gregory the Great taught, “the virgin birth is not a natural but a miraculous birth, matched only by the escape of Jesus from a sealed tomb…” The CCC teaches Christ's birth "did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it.” The birth of Jesus was as light passing through a pane of glass, experienced by Mary, free from original sin, as an ecstatic experience of love, yet in the midst of the cold, dark and humiliating surroundings of a cave.
“God is with us” – the infinite God, pure spirit, a Trinity of divine Persons – sends the Word to become flesh. What an astonishing mission! With what urgency God assumes our human nature – true man, true God. Jesus, which means savior … is a Divine Person, come to “save His people from their sins”! Think about it: What would the world be, what would we be, if Christ were not “with us”?? What if we were not saved from our sins?
This leads us to the crux of the Christmas question. Not just abstractly, “what’s the meaning of Christmas”… but to paraphrase our Lord’s question to His Apostles: “Who do you say the child born of Mary is… to YOU?” For Christmas to have any meaning for us individually, we must examine ourselves honestly and ask, how has Emmanuel changed my life in concrete, observable ways?
“Jesus” means SAVIOR. The Christmas Incarnation happened for one reason only: to SAVE US FROM OUR SINS. Hence, if we do not humbly acknowledge our NEED, our SINS … the Christ child of Bethlehem can never be born in our hearts. When we do recognize and confess our sins, we become “holy” and “beloved of God”.
St. Paul reflects today that we are “beloved of God … called to be holy”. Holiness consists not in being perfect but as St Therese said: “It is sufficient to humble ourselves, to endure our own faults with meekness. That is true sanctity. And again she says: “Sanctity does not consist in these or those exercises and achievements; it consists in a disposition of the heart which allows us to remain small and humble in the arms of God, knowing our weakness and trusting to the point of rashness in His fatherly goodness.” This is the smallness and humility of the Word emptying himself, taking on our human nature from Mary, born in humiliation.
Simply put, Holiness consists in obedience to God’s will as St. Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” His will is for us to love – to will the good of our neighbor, to be sacrificial in our love, empowered through the love of God poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. Why? Because this is the life of the Holy Trinity – the love of the 3 Persons in one God!
Has the Christ born in Bethlehem been born in your heart? This is the only way we can become holy, which means to be set apart by God, predestined for eternal life in communion with the Holy Trinity. It is this communion Christ was born into the world to reconcile. It was this communion with the Trinity Christ lived, taught, healed, loved and died for. Christ lived and died for love because he is God and God is love.
So the Incarnation of Christ and the birth of His presence in our souls through baptism and our ongoing engagement of our Lord, growing in union with Him and responding to His love – is what we call conversion. It is the Christmas conversion. It is resolving to dispose ourselves, our very lives, for Christ’s ongoing birth in our hearts so that He is the “gift that keeps on giving,” and not just another holiday.
We take Mary’s “yes” and Joseph’s obedience as models for our humble obedience to God’s will – but their “yes” was not just an isolated event, but a fundamental commitment of their lives, every day, to be wholly dedicated to God. This is what Christmas Incarnation desires to effect in us… it is the purpose of His coming. This is ongoing conversion and commitment of our lives to God, which must be renewed in concrete ways every single day!
It means keeping His commandments as passed on through the Apostles to the Church and all her moral teachings. “If you love me you will keep my commandments”, says the Lord. Concretely, it means encountering the Lord in Eucharist every Sunday and as often as possible. Frequent confession – realizing our need for healing and the grace to overcome sin. Daily prayer – dialogue of love with our Lord within us. Acts of self-denial – fasting, refraining from harsh words, impatience, judgmentalness. Family prayer – fosters unity and conversation, heals wounds. Spiritual reading – lives of the saints. Service to the poor and those in need around us in mind body or spirit, almsgiving. Seeing God’s will with the eyes of faith …. in the little things and duties of life and doing them with great love. There is a direct and absolutely necessary connection between Christmas and our daily life – concrete action. Let us make straight the path of the Lord’s coming into our hearts …for us a permanent, life-transforming experience, driven by the awesome LOVE of God. For us, this means we are called to CONVERSION of our lives totally to Christ.
Christmas calls us beyond minimalism, to reach out to a deeper realization of happiness and the experience of a love, which does not disappoint. A love stronger than death itself. A love that is eternal, a Trinitarian love we are made for, revealed this Christmas in the Incarnate Christ, Son of Mary, Son of God.