What difference does Christmas make? We sing of ‘Peace on Earth’, and ‘Joy to the World,’ all the while observing racial tensions, political and social upheavals, economic disruption, and violence. Where’s the peace? Where’s the joy? Has the world really changed all that much since the first Christmas?
Asking the same question, Pope Benedict XVI responds with a ‘yes,’ the world is different. God has entered into it.[i]
After Christmas, the world will no longer be the same. The Second Person of the Holy Trinity has assumed human nature to himself through the hypostatic union. Therefore, humanity, in Christ, will never be separated from God again. Additionally, Christ is drawing us to him – into his Mystical Body the Church – which is mysteriously but truly united to him.[ii]
You may object, ‘So why is the world still in such a mess?’ God continues to respect our freedom to choose either good or evil, therefore sin has not left the world. Nevertheless, through his death and resurrection, Christ has conquered evil.[iii] In his book ‘St. Paul’ Pope Benedict XVI writes, ‘It is necessary to proclaim to [people] that Christ is triumphant, so that those who are with Christ, who stay united to him, have nothing and no one to fear… he is the true Lord of the world’ [p. 113]. The war is won, but battles remain.
Nevertheless, just as in his earthly life Christ made himself vulnerable to the violence of sin, so too his Mystical Body remains vulnerable. The Church is vulnerable to scandal from within and persecution from without. Our Lord’s Mystical Body can still bleed… but never be fully overcome. The Church remains miraculously resilient in her existence, in her teaching, and in her sanctity despite the constant struggles.[iv] It is perhaps in her most severe struggles that the Church gives her greatest testimony. The martyrs evidently draw from a strength that is not their own. Even the weakness of scandal shows that it is not our strength that sustains the Church, but comes from the very presence of God within it.
What difference does Christmas make? Our Lord and God cared enough for us to become one of us, to live among us, to lead the charge against the enemy of our souls, and to unite us to himself in his Mystical Body through the sacraments – especially the Eucharist.
That is an amazing difference and wonderful news, news that should make us sing: ‘Joy to the World!’
I wish you a very blessed Christmas.
Fr. John Bullock, LC
Image: personal photo
[i] cf. Pope Benedict XVI. Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration. New York: Doubleday. 2007. [ii] cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 461.469.519.521.788.790 [iii] cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 272. [iv] cf. Chesterton, Everlasting Man. Old Land Mark Publishing. Kindle Edition, 162-163