I am praying that Christmas this year - both for myself and for my parishioners — will be an encounter with the Living Jesus. No longer just a sentimental exercise in Christian nostalgia. Would that we might approach the crib of Christ with the fervent expectation of the Kings from the East! Or with the humble reverence and innocent awe of the shepherds from the fields!

What do I see as I contemplate the Virgin’s Infant? I behold the very Son of God: “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” as the ancient Creed proclaims, “consubstantial with the Father,” through whom, in whom, and for whom all things are made (1 Cor. 8:6; cf. Eph. 1:10-11). Jesus is the Rosetta Stone of human nature and world history. He is the Word (Logos) Who in the beginning was with God and Who is God (Jn. 1:1). Apart from Him, nothing that has come to be came to be (Jn. 1:3). Apart from Him nothing holds together, nothing has ultimate meaning (cf. 1 Cor. 15:27) All provisional meanings, all human and natural excellences, find their template and Source in Him. All beauty, goodness, and truth we discover in this world is but a dim reflection and intimation of Him Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (Jn. 14:6).

As I behold Him there I also see “the power and wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24). It is an innocent, crucified power and wisdom. Such talk is foolishness to the world, but “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor. 1:25). It is ever-inspiring to me when I think: “This little baby, defenseless in the extreme, is stronger than all the armies in the world. His power and

His glory will outlast every kingdom, nation, and city-state that ever has or ever will exist. And to think that all of those who bind themselves to Him in faith and love will live in, with, and through Him forever! This, for me, is the real gift of Christmas.

“God became man,” said the early church fathers, “so man could become God.” Christianity is ultimately the mystery of deification. It proclaims the divinization of human nature through the miracle of God’s Incarnation. We become, in Christ, “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt. 1:4), “participants” that is, in the very life of the Trinity itself. “That which is not assumed,” continued the church fathers, “is not healed,” i.e., not assimilated or incorporated into the very Life of God. The miracle of the incarnation is simultaneously the mystery of the divinization of the human race.

This, for me, is the real meaning of Christmas: God became man in Jesus so that we — weak, dying, sinful creatures — can become God in Jesus. In Christ, through the sacramental mysteries of His Church, we become by participation what He — Jesus, the only-begotten of the Father — is by nature. Christ in the crib makes us partakers of His Kingdom...partakers, that is, of the ineffable, ecstatic, incomprehensible communion of eternal love He has from all eternity with His Father and their Holy Spirit. No sentimental nostalgia this…an event, rather, of re-creation. and total redemption ... for me, he greatest conceivable of Christmas gifts.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!