God Has Revealed Himself
Christmas Day we celebrate the fundamental joy of God's reality. It is the mystery of God, arriving in our midst, taking on human form to be one of us in all ways but sin.
At midnight Mass from St. Peter's Basilica last year, Pope Benedict XVI referred to this joy in his homily on the meaning of Christ's Nativity.
"God has appeared to us and revealed Himself," the Pope said. "He has emerged from the inaccessible light in which He dwells. He Himself has come in our midst. This was the great joy of Christmas for the early Church: God has appeared. No longer is He merely an idea. No longer do we have to form a picture of Him on the basis of mere words. He has 'appeared.'"
The appearance couldn't have been one that to outward eyes appeared majestic or God-like, as we read in Luke 2:7: "And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." The manger, or barn, had baying animals and barnyard smells, a far cry from the idealized depictions we often see of the Nativity.
"When we think of that holy night," writes Scott Richert on the Catholic website catholicism.about.com, "we tend either to idealize it ... or we think of the physical poverty that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph endured. But physical poverty is merely the outward sign of the inward grace in the souls of the Holy Family. On this night, heaven and earth met in a stable."
From there, Pope Benedict reminds us, we are met with a question: "How has He appeared? Who is He in reality?" The answer to that latter question, the Pope says, appears to us "as a real epiphany. The great light has appeared to us: God is pure goodness."
God has appeared in the guise of a child, Pope Benedict says, pitting Himself "against all violence" to bring a message of peace.
"At this hour, when the world is continually threatened by violence in so many places and in so many different ways ... we cry out to the Lord: 'O mighty God, You have appeared as a child, and You have revealed Yourself to us as the One who loves us, the One through whom love will triumph. ... Manifest Your power, O God. In this time of ours, cause the oppressors' rods to be broken, the cloaks rolled in blood, and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that Your peace may triumph in this world of ours.'"