Christmas and The Divine Plan
(A Christmas Meditation)
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
At last we have reached the time for celebrating that mystery or event foretold in the beautiful testimonies of the Jewish Prophets which the Church proclaims in the liturgy of Advent; an astonishing event it is too — for in it we find the glory of God and humility combined with one another in the coming of the Messiah.
A Poor Child.
In the middle of earth’s night, God appears. He comes as the child of poor parents, and is wrapped in swaddling clothes. His first shelter is but a stable in one of the smallest towns in Judaea. His presence is made known in a mysterious way to just a few people: they are simple folk, shepherds.
The Eternal One.
But this child is none other than the Eternal One. He is rightly called God, the Prince of peace, Father of the world to come — of that new era which ushers in an eternal kingdom. God, whom He calls His Father, proclaims to us the eternal origin of this child through the mouth of the prophet: “Princely state is yours on this day of your triumph. Amid the splendours of the heavens, before ever the day-star arose, it was I who gave you birth”.
The Lord Who Will Come Again.
This babe, now poor and unknown in Bethlehem, will come again on the Last Day in all the splendour of His divine glory. For now, the faithful celebrate the coming of the Messiah, the Anointed One, Christ Jesus: “Rejoice heaven, and let earth be glad….. He comes to rule the earth”. Christ’s first coming is an invitation to prepare for the final coming of the Saviour: “The Grace of God, our Saviour, has dawned on all men alike, schooling us….. to live, in this present world, a life of order, of justice and holiness. We are to look forward, blessed in our hope, to the day when there will be a new dawn of glory, the glory of the great God, the glory of our Saviour, Jesus Christ”.
We await the triumphal Return of our Blessed Messiah. But the work of our redemption has already begun, the Saviour is born. He is among us as a child of the human race, but one against whom sin is powerless: flesh and blood indeed, but untainted and with a right to the heavenly kingdom. Mankind, in Him, has regained the eternal youth of God. And this “new birth” is the proclamation of a new world, pure and happy as a little child — a world without sin and tears and sorrows: “In its Christmas freshness, Christ’s sacrament ever renews us”. The Word is made flesh. And we have a share in the divine life of him who deigned to share our human life and nature.
The Date of Christmas.
Both the Epiphany and Christmas are feasts of the birth of Christ. Epiphany originated in the East, Christmas in the West. We keep the birthday of our Lord on December 25, though there is no tradition that suggests this date corresponds with fact. The date is that of the winter solstice, when the sun, having as far below the horizon as it ever does, begins to rise in its orbit and thus gain upon the darkness. In the third century pagans used to keep a feast in honour of the sun at this time, for it was beginning to restore life to the earth after the seeming death of nature in the winter. “But for us”, says St. Augustine, “the day is sacred, not because of the visible sun, but on account of the birth of the invisible Creator of the sun.” Christ foretold by the prophets, is the true Sun who rises “and exults like some great runner who sees the track before him”. With Him our life begins; with Him it attains full vigour: He is the source of light and of life.
Proclamation of the Birth of the Son of God.
- Many ages after the creation of the world when God in the
beginning made the heavens and the earth.
- Long after the flood,
- More than two thousand years after Abraham’s birth, Fifteen
centuries after Moses and the going out of the children of Israel
- Close on a thousand years after David was anointed king,
- In the sixty-fifth week according to Daniel’s prophecy,
- In the one hundred and ninety-fourth Olympiad and the seven
hundred and forty-second year from the foundation of the City
- The forty-second year of the rule of Octavian Augustus and
the sixth age of the world,
All the earth being at peace,
Jesus Christ: long-awaited Messiah,
Eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, intending
to consecrate the world by his merciful coming,
being conceived by the Holy Spirit
and nine months having passed since his conception,
Was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Juda
God made Man.
The birthday of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
(Based on the text from the ‘Layman’s Daily Missal,’ Maison Mame, 1962)