Scripture tells us that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Every Christmas, we celebrate the Son of God coming among us as a helpless baby.
As one of the Christmas Octave antiphons proclaims, “Marvelous exchange! Man’s creator became man. . . . We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” The Incarnation is the greatest act of love in history. Gazing on the child lying in a manger, we can see how deeply Jesus desired to join himself with us, how deeply he wanted to embrace us.
So what can we do to experience this embrace? How can we come in touch with this boundless love? One thing we can do is meditate—with all our heart and soul—on the mystery of the Incarnation. Our meditation can move us to give the only response we can possibly give: to embrace Jesus just as he embraced us. Without question, this is the best possible gift we can offer him on Christmas Day.
To help us embrace Jesus and the mystery of his Incarnation, let’s look at three key Scripture passages that show us how deeply Jesus wants to embrace us. Let’s ponder these words over and over again and ask the Holy Spirit to write them on our hearts.
He Humbled Himself. He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:7-8)
It can be easy to gloss over these words as we focus on the baby in the manger. But think for a moment about the sheer magnitude of what Jesus did. The eternal Son of God, perfect in holiness, unlimited in power, entered into his own creation—as one of his own creatures! He who formed the stars and galaxies accepted the confines of a mortal, limited body. The One whom angels adored became a poor carpenter, hated and hunted by the people he created. He who made the fish to swim and the birds to fly began his own earthly life by crawling on all fours. And he did it because he loves us!
We know that Jesus didn’t empty himself of his divinity. He was perfectly God and perfectly human. He remained the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. But on the day he entered Mary’s womb, he no longer considered his equality with God something he should hold on to (Philippians 2:6). He put aside the glory that he knew in heaven and became one like us in all things but sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus remained Lord over all the universe, even as he allowed himself to be confined to a human body. But he didn’t come as a king. He didn’t come in triumph. He came in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. This may sound sweet and innocent at first. But when you look at the manger, see who lies there. He is the Creator and Lord. The Incarnation is an incredible act of humility!
Jesus’ humility did not end in the manger. It was the way he lived his entire earthly life. He humbly listened to people telling him who he was and who he was not. He lowered himself to wash the feet of his apostles—even the man who would betray him to his death. He allowed himself to be crucified on a cross. His whole life was an act of perfect humility, a life completely dedicated to his Father’s will and to our redemption. Embrace him, the humble One who gave up everything for you.
He Is Full of Mercy. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
Over and over again, we see how merciful Jesus was. He refused to condemn a woman caught in adultery (John 8:11). He brought forgiveness and healing to a man who was paralyzed (Mark 2:1-12). He assured the “good thief” crucified next to him that he would be with him in Paradise that very day (Luke 23:43).
It’s not only Jesus who is rich in mercy. Think about your heavenly Father. He gave up his only Son so that all of our sins could be forgiven—once and for all (Hebrews 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18). Of course, we have to repent if we want to experience this forgiveness (Acts 2:38; 3:19). But as we focus our attention on the manger scene, we need to remember that there is no sin too big for Jesus to forgive. No abortion, no act of adultery or abuse, no theft or deception. Everything can be forgiven!
Think of the parable of the prodigal son. The young man left home and spent half of his father’s money in sinful living. But then he came to his senses and decided to come back home. Jesus tells us that “while he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). Despite all his son had done, the father was still waiting for him. He still held out hope that he would come home. They may have been separated physically, but the boy was always in his father’s heart. Likewise, our heavenly Father holds us close to his heart, even when we have separated ourselves from him. He longs for us to “come home” from big sins and from little ones.
Sometimes we find it hard to forgive even the smallest of offenses. And then there are the very severe cases where it is next to impossible to forgive. Now add up all the sins that have been committed from the fall of humanity—both those against God and those against other people. The amount is mind-boggling.
Now, fixing your eyes on Jesus in the manger, think about how all these sins—both large and small—have hurt him. Think about how deeply he mourns every sin, how keenly he feels every offense. Finally, as you look at the child, repeat the prayer of Simeon: “My eyes have seen your salvation; my eyes have seen your salvation; my eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:30). Yes, Jesus is all-merciful. He has forgiven all of our sins! Embrace him; he is your salvation.
He Is God. They shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:23)
Many of those who have stopped going to Mass say the reason is that they don’t “get anything out of it.” While this kind of approach may be acceptable in some situations, there are others—like attending Mass—where it is simply wrong.
For example, there may be days when we would much rather take the day off than go to work. There are times when we would rather avoid having to discipline one of our children. There are times when we would like to forget our financial responsibilities and go out and buy that new computer or that new dress we have been looking at.
In situations like these, we don’t usually give in to these desires because we know that our responsibilities to work and family have to take precedence. Similarly, we are called to honor the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Whether we are getting anything out of it, as valuable and wonderful as that may be, is a secondary concern. The call to honor God is about faith, not feelings.
Jesus is worthy of our honor and our praise because he is God. He is eternal and righteous and holy. He is all-powerful and all-knowing. He is perfectly wise and perfectly just. He is all-merciful and faithful and true. He is Messiah, Savior, and Lord. He is love incarnate.
Jesus is far superior to any of us. Seated at his Father’s right hand, he is praised and honored and glorified by the heavenly hosts. Every day, everyone in heaven—angels and saints alike—cry out: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:12). At every Mass, we are called to remember these words and all that they mean. Every Mass is another invitation to embrace Jesus, who is God with us.
Embrace Him. Brothers and sisters, we should all embrace Jesus because of the way he embraced us—with perfect humility, with complete forgiveness, and with boundless love. We should embrace him because of who he is—the Son of the living God. An old saying tells us: “Your life is a gift from God. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” So as you celebrate this Christmas, give Jesus the gift he is longing for: try to embrace him a little more every day.