First Reading: Isa 52:7-10; Psalm: 98. R. v. 3cd; Second Reading: Heb 1:1-6; Gospel: Jn 1:1-18
TAKING FLESH AT CHRISTMAS
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . (Jn 1:14).
It’s Christmas Day. Christmas comes up once a year. Customarily, it is a day we rejoice, feast and make merry with friends and families because Christ is born to us. From observation, it appears that the celebration of Christmas often overshadows its message. If I asked us what exactly happened at Christmas; we would probably say that “God came down to dwell with us.” Or that “a saviour is born to us.” Either way, we are correct. But whenever we celebrate Christmas, we tend to feel that Christ’s saving mission is only at a latent stage and would only begin to manifest in his later years. This is wrong because our salvation started when Christ took flesh.
If we understood the mystery of the incarnation in this way, then we would be more open to the message of Christmas. And what exactly is this message?
John conveyed it in the gospel reading of today in a very revelatory style. The gospel of John chapter one from where the gospel reading of this morning was taken from would obviously sound very abstract to any reader of our day and time. But as the reading went on, it became a little bit clear what John was saying. Literally, it was like a movement from abstraction to tangibility. John spoke of the ‘Word’ that was with God in the beginning; and that this ‘Word’ was God. John also said that all things were made through this ‘Word’ and that this ‘Word’ was life and light to men. This sounds too abstract?
We shall not be going into any exegetical analysis to explain what John meant by “the Word” because in verse fourteen John solved this puzzle when he said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” This verse explains that this “Word” which previously sounded vague to us was Jesus the Son of God the Father. So John’s style of writing gradually led us from the metaphysical to the physical. This is exactly what happened this Christmas. The invisible God became visible in human flesh.
And here lies the message of Christmas. That God is not just there for us but he is now with us. He is no longer invisible but visible. We can now see, feel, taste and smell the love of God. He is not just God whose essence is existence. He is also God who has become one of us with flesh and blood. So God has taught us that taking flesh was a necessary presence our world needs. Because that is the only way that love can truly be felt. We all also need to take flesh.
We may be wondering, “How do I take flesh again when I’m already human?” In this question lies the salvation that Christ brought to humanity when he took flesh and became like us. Because when Christ took flesh like us, he taught us that love is real and not a concept. That he is present and not absent. And that he has redeemed what Satan destroyed and closed the gap between us and him.
Some of us are parents without flesh. Our parenthood is only an idea that is not lived or felt. There is no love, concern, care and presence for the family. Our children only know us as parents but do not feel that responsibility of parenthood from us. They do not see us as father or mother but somewhat like an acquaintance because there is a huge gap between us and them. If you are that kind of parent, this Christmas is time to take flesh.
To priests who do not smell like their flock or do not care about their pastoral needs; Christ needs us to take some flesh this Christmas. To those who only attend Masses and feel not obliged to integrate into the parish life; this Christmas is the time for us to take a lot of flesh. Have we intentionally ceased communicating with parents and families due to some personal issues? This Christmas asks that we take some flesh because we lack flesh. When people cannot feel our love or presence around them, it is a sign that we need some flesh.
When the ‘Word’ took flesh, our lives changed remarkably. God took over our lives and made us new again. So taking flesh just like Jesus is a journey of renewal. A journey to love, to presence, to realising whom we are called to be. This Christmas therefore is a time to reach out, to share love, and to close that gap that has separated us from those who needs our love. Not temporarily but continually because Christ came to us to stay and not to visit. So, if you felt that this Christmas is for you; then you should be ready today to take some flesh.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and prosperous New Year.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Christ our Saviour, when you took flesh and became like us, you changed our lives. Grant us the disposition to open up our hearts to this change so as to spread your love everywhere we go. Amen.