When my wife and I found out that we were expecting our first child, it was an exciting and nervous time. We had been married a little more than six months, and our lives were about to change definitively. What would come in the following months would be a gambit of emotions from terrified to ridiculously excited as well as some hard decisions about our home and career path. The anticipated birth of our daughter was one of the biggest reasons we bought a house and also that I took a job as youth minister at Holy Trinity Parish. Spruce Grove seemed like a great place to start our family (and it has been.)
We did a lot to get ready for that fateful day over seven years ago when our daughter was born. Books on pregnancy, childbirth, and the early days at home were required reading. We made a CD of my wife’s favorite music. We bought diapers, baby clothes, and a crib. My wife left a great job for maternity leave. We took a prenatal class. And, after going through the experience of labor (the moment I realized my wife is infinitely stronger than I am), we got to bring my little girl home for the first time. I will never forget the moment of pure fear that ran through me a few moments after we arrived home with a newborn, set the carseat down in the kitchen, looked one another in the eyes and said ‘now what?’ I wouldn’t trade it, but we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, and we knew it.
When I reflect on Jesus’ parents, I begin to wonder whether they felt like this on the evening 2000 years ago in the stable at Bethlehem, looking at the child Jesus, the Son of God, the Word become flesh… wondering what was to come. How could they have any idea that angels would send shepherds their way that night? How could they understand the things said to them by Simeon and Anna in the temple when they would present Jesus there? Did they know that twice they would leave everything, fleeing the persecution of Herod to Egypt then returning once things were safe? Did they expect the difficulty of losing Him on their annual pilgrimage to the temple when he was a young boy? Could Mary have known what she would witness her Son do over three years, culminating in His death to save the world? In that peaceful moment right after the birth of Jesus, I can’t fathom that they could have understood all of it. Much like my very limited experience of parenthood, they likely would have been tired and at peace, grateful to God that all was well to this point. “Now what” may or may not have gone through their minds… but I’d guess it was a similar feeling in the days that would follow the first Christmas morning.
Jesus came to be someone different. As His parents would begin to discover in that quiet home at Nazareth, our world would never be the same thanks to Him. Jesus came to teach us who God really was… love, at its very essence, and one who is much closer than we would have ever guessed. Now we can dare to pray ‘Our Father.’ He came to show us how to live, being alike us in every way throughout His 33 years except for sin. He came to reconcile us to God: dying a criminals death in our place for every sin you or I would ever commit. And He came to change us, to elevate our human nature beyond what we see here, helping us to become like God. Jesus’ simple life would have a greater impact on human civilization than any other person who would ever live.
Today we find ourselves at the doorstep of another Christmas. Many people do not understand what this holy-day season really means… but it all centers on the birth of this precious infant. We can be grateful that God chooses to come quietly into the messiness of human existence because in a very real way, the occasion of his birth is a microcosm of the ways in which He continues to come: quietly, to places that don’t deserve Him, at times we don’t always expect Him. Open your eyes, for the Savior is on His way:
Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again, for your sake, God became man.
You would have suffered eternal death had He not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh had He not taken on Himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had He not shared your death. You would have been lost if He had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had He not come. (St. Augustine)