At Christmas we often think, and rightfully so, of God’s gift of Jesus to the world. We celebrate and rejoice that God has been born into this world as one of us. God is with us in a new way. God has given us himself in the baby Jesus. The early Church, while recognizing God’s gift to his people, also understood and saw the nativity of Jesus as a time when creation gave to God. For the ancient Christians all of creation participated in this great feast day. This is readily seen in the following hymn:
“What shall we bring Thee, O Christ, when Thou art born on earth as Man for our sake; for each of the creatures, who have their being from Thee, brings thanks to Thee: angels their songs, the heavens a star, the wise men gifts, the shepherds wonder, the earth a cave, the wilderness a manger, but we – the Virgin Mother.”
Jesus was able to become human because Mary, on our behalf, gave him that possibility. She gives him humanity even as he gives us divinity. The early church fathers said that God became human in order that humanity might become divine. God and humanity exchange gifts. We share our lives with one another and in so doing discover that God and human beings are united and joined as one. Here, St. Mary is our teacher and guide.
The particularity of God’s human embodiment and the nativity of Christ are found in St. Mary. She is archetypal for us. She invites us to consent, to say yes, to offer our vulnerability, our receptivity, our life, and our “How can this be?” These are the gifts we bring. These are what we offer God. These are the gifts that change our lives and the world. These gifts create space and place within us for Christ to be born anew.
In reflecting on this great mystery Meister Eckhart, a fourteenth century German monk, asked a profound question in one of his sermons. “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?”
Let’s not just celebrate Christmas this year. Let’s also participate in Christmas. Let’s dream and consider, or as St. Luke says of the Blessed Virgin Mary, “ponder” and “treasure.” How will we give birth to the Son of God in our time and in our culture? How will we give birth to the Son of God here in our community, in our schools and workplaces, in our families, in our churches, in caring for the poor, the sick, the homeless, in speaking and working for peace and justice, in our relationships, in our brokenness and pain, and in our joys and celebrations?
“We are all,” Eckhart says, “meant to be mothers of God,” and the fullness of time is this: “When the Son of God is begotten in us.”
Very nice meditation, Father. Particularly like the quotes from Meister Eckhart. The BVM shows us the way to receive Christ into our lives.
The BVM and Eckhart always challenge me with their invitation into the Mystery of our Motherhood.
My goodness! Some powerful thoughts and images there… and the challenge “participate rather than just celebrate” is a timely one. Have always enjoyed your writing Fr Michael and this is a real “stunner” to start Christmas with. Thankyou!
Thank you Fr. David. It is good to hear from you. May we all discover the manger within us.
I hope your preparations and expectation in Advent are richly fulfilled in our Lord’s birth.
Mike, I love this part in particular, “She invites us to consent, to say yes, to offer our vulnerability, our receptivity, our life, and our ‘How can this be?’ These are the gifts we bring.”
Just this minute, I’ve been feeling superior to someone and justified about it; I’m giving that up now so I can contribute to giving birth to the son of God. x
And the world will be different for that, Narelle. “We are all meant to be mothers of God,” Eckhart said. I pray you have an easy and short labor.
Peace be with you,