Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2016.
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by His most loving presence, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man.
These words that I chanted before the Mass—what wonder they hold! What mystery they tell! What invitation they extend! Brothers and sisters, we must never weary of giving our deepest contemplation to their meaning. For amid all of the warm memories of Christmastide that we all have with our families and friends, which we recall and live again in this holy season, let us also savor above all else the fundamental reality of this moment: that God has come to earth and Mary is Mother of God.
Jesus desired to consecrate the world by His most loving presence. That word, “consecrate,” we often use in the Christian life. Those ordained to the three Orders of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon are consecrated by the laying-on of hands of a Bishop or Bishops who are in the apostolic succession tracing from the Twelve Apostles. The Gifts of Wine and Bread given as Offerings to God during the Offertory are consecrated through the action of God into the Precious Body and Blood of Jesus—actually Him. When a person is baptized, he or she is consecrated—and when a person decides to completely give over their life to God, whether in a religious order or within the secular world, it is said that they are consecrated. To consecrate is to make sacred—to set apart for a holy and religious purpose. Jesus Christ, in His coming to earth, desired to make the world holy, that it would be set apart as sacred, to affirm its true purpose, which is to glorify God.
And He desired to do this not by proclamation, not as some intellectual idea that could be written in a book, nor as a feeling that some people have and others do not. He desired to consecrate the world by His most loving presence. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The fullness of God has come to be with us—the definitive revelation of ultimate reality is here, and he is wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Jesus Christ was sent by His Father, the creator of all that is, seen and unseen—He, who is the complete expression of holiness, He who is expressive existence, expressive Being—has been sent, He is come, and He lives because of the Father. He is the Father’s Word—the Word who was with God, and the Word who is God. A word, to be a word, must be conceived, must be uttered, and must be heard. And how can we not hear the Word as He lives, and moves, and has His Being as a little Child who cries, and sleeps, and wakes again, wanting nothing else but to be held by His Mother. What light between Mother and divine Son! And can this Light be anything but a Love that fills all nooks and crannies of our body, our mind, our soul? A love bigger than the big bang.
Brothers and sisters, on this day, the only-begotten Son has taken our human nature upon Him, and is born of a pure Virgin. Like Blessed Mary, let us treasure all these words, let us keep all these things, and let us ponder this mystery in our heart. And let us savor again God’s favor and goodness towards us—for we are very members incorporate in the mystical Body of the Son of God. Indeed, we have been made so by the Sacrament of Baptism, and we embrace this baptismal reality through daily prayer, loving Christ in all persons according to the biblical revelation, and by breaking the eucharistic Bread.
Through these three dimensions we receive Jesus, we believe in His Name, and thereby we are given power to become children of God ever-reforming into His likeness. Through baptism we are born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Let us indeed hear how the Word of God speaks to us through the virginal conception of Jesus Christ—let us hear how it points to the new birth of every Christian, as an adopted child of God. Each of us is born again from above by water and spirit. Blessed Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus is no isolated miracle but a powerful expression of what the Church believes about our Lord, and about our salvation.
My brothers and sisters, the birth of God’s only Son by the Mother of God raises us to the heights of heaven. We are raised up this day, not to fill our minds with lofty ideas, or to escape the responsibilities of daily life—but to consecrate our lives by the loving presence of the Christ Child—to free us from the bondage of narrow perspective, and take on the mystical, yet entirely real and palpable, perspective of Mary—that we too may be filled with grace and truth, to behold His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. Amen.
Cover image “Nativity Icon Detail” by Ted is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.