Christmas and Christmastide

What happens at Christmas — when God enters the world as a child — is something truly mysterious. Today, we are blessed to be on this side of the incarnation. As we prepare to celebrate the Savior’s birth, it is enough to stand in awe of the greatness and love of God who comes near to us at Christmas.

And beyond Christmas, we are a part of a never-ending stream of faithful ones who are renewed year by year in the celebration of the Incarnation. More than 1500 years ago, St. Athanasius (who helped write the Nicene Creed) expressed the amazing truth of God’s coming to us in the child of Bethlehem this way:

You know what happens when a portrait that has been painted on a panel becomes obliterated through external stains. The artist does not throw away the panel, but the subject of the portrait has to come and sit for it again, and then the likeness is re-drawn on the same material. Even so was it with the All-holy Son of God. He, the Image of the Father, came and dwelt in our midst.

As we sing the familiar carols and hear the ancient words from Scripture, I pray that we will see the “subject of the portrait” that Athanasius brings to us. The incarnate Christ will, of necessity, look different in 2013 than he did in 348 A.D. He will speak to the pains and burdens we carry today; he will challenge us where we are proud, and he will raise us to the heavens where we are truly humble.