“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh.” If this is not the herald of your Christmas season then it may be time to turn off the Christmas Carols on your radio for a bit and tune into some Scripture. This season we celebrate the most scandalously shocking moment of human history: our Creator of the cosmos took on human skin. Baby soft skin, I might add.
When the Son of God penetrates human history, he does not appear to us in glowing white garments, hovering like an angel. Instead, enter far stage left - a small, vulnerable Jewish baby boy.
See, I would like to dispel white “American” Jesus from our Protestant America mindset because it wrecks havoc on our spiritual lives. Due to the multitude of non-denominational Churches, there has erupted an eerie culture that feels entitled to construct their own Jesus. We pick our favorite things that he said; we give him whatever superpowers we feel comfortable with, and Bam! - we have the recipe for a savior made in our own image and likeness.
But how backwards is that? There are so many fluffy Christmas songs poorly associated with the birth of God that I feel we are now in real danger of losing sight of Jesus as a true character in human history. Christmas is the celebration of a historical event. When we are ignorant to the details that surround all of historical Bethlehem or alter them to our choosing, we make a fable of the most important event in human history. If we place Christ on the same level as an enchanted snowman, we run the risk of making him as mythical as (spoiler alert) Santa Claus.
Oh the Who-manity! Not to worry though, I am not suggesting we end Christmas. My point is that we should want to celebrate the Jesus of history just as badly as we want to experience the “feeling of Christmas.” As easy as it is to point a finger at the media and consumerism for stealing Christmas, we have four fingers pointing right back at us for not really believing Jesus walked this earth, healing, and performing miracles.
It’s possible that here in America we have allowed Jesus of Nazareth to become an invention, a pious legend, or a bedtime story. I think the problem is that when there are such varying views of something, it makes it seem less credible. When there are forty churches, each with a different vantage point on Jesus of Nazareth, it immediately causes speculation to the entire event’s reality. Hipster Jesus, Santa Jesus, white Jesus, black Jesus, Billy Graham Jesus. Infinitely varying Jesus-es, created by the multitudes’ bias, causes speculation to the Christ event. Thus, we as Catholics must profess the one Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God who assumed human nature.
What makes Jesus our credible savior is that he is human; he is real. It is not just a cool ideology; it is REVELATION. The birth of Christ is the unveiling of our Creator’s face; it is the unveiling of himself. As Catholics, we do not profess an idea or an opinion, but a person - Jesus of Nazareth. As Pope Emeritus Benedict writes, “Our faith is not an idea but an encounter with the living God who is our Father, who in his Son Jesus Christ has assumed human nature, who unites us to the Holy Spirit and who, in all this, remains the one and only God.”
I invite you to return to Bethlehem this Christmas. Encounter the living God who daily engages the world in the most intimate and personal ways. Renew your faith. Believe Jesus was born, died, and rose in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago and that he is here now. Let God reveal and unveil himself to you once again. Encounter Him. Believe in Him. Surrender to Him.
Jesus isn’t white; he’s Jewish. His mother was Jewish, and she was betrothed to a man named Joseph in Nazareth. The historical event matches with all the rulers’ reigns at the time, as accurately depicted by St. Luke: “in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (42 B.C.- d.37 AD), when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea (AD 26-36), and Herod was Tetrarch of Galilee (20 B.C. - 39 AD).” (Luke 3:1) This particular time and place is given to us by St. Luke to assure us that this is a historical account, not just mythical language. “I believe in the one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Begotten Son of God…who by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”
It is easy to make God nothing more than an idea, but to believe him to be a person involved in the material world? In our material world? No. We refuse. The Incarnation scandalizes us. The Resurrection, it scandalizes us.
God has indefinitely intermingled in the world of man. He has irreversibly entangled himself in the fabric of humanity. The world cannot return to the world before Christ. In Jesus, God has spoken His irreversible Word. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI states it as follows: “the Incarnation and the Resurrection conversely become the cornerstones of faith and reality. In Christ he has ushered a New Creation, and the Creator becomes also Redeemer. The historical virgin birth of Christ thus becomes our hope, as our Creator has entered the human realm now as Redeemer.”
May the true Jesus of Nazareth reign in your heart this Advent Season.
If you’ve joined our 4 Pillar Living Way of Life, here is a great resource to supplement a Pillar 1 (Creed) Deficiency:
Pillar 1 Supplement: Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives
BONUS! We’re GIVING AWAY TWO FREE HARDCOVER COPIES of Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives to the first two people to download our ebook, Four Pillar Spirituality and share the results of their Examination of Balance with firstname.lastname@example.org (Examination of Balance is found at the end of the Ebook, download here).
I highly recommend finding Pope Benedict’s Jesus of Nazareth: Infancy Narratives whether it is free or not. It is the third and last in his series of Jesus of Nazareth books. It’s also the smallest which makes it easy to pick up and dive into. If you really want to encounter Jesus of Nazareth of our Catholic Creed pick up this little treasure from our most recent Pope!