Monday, December 11, 2006

Reflection: Advent and Christmas, a Time of Hope.

The Advent Season is upon us, the season of hope and expectation that reminds us to focus our gaze with longing hearts on the Lord’s coming. But I’m not talking about Jesus’ birth here. Advent is a season of hope not only because it prepares us to remember the birth of Jesus, but primarily because it reminds us of the great hope we have received as a result of that first, meek coming of Christ: the hope of heaven.

“For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary and was made man,” the words of the Nicene Creed tell us. But if we’ve heard these words once, we’ve heard them a thousand times, and so maybe we say them or read them without thinking much about what they mean. “For us … and for our salvation”: that’s two reasons Christ came, not one. It is already such a glorious thing that Jesus came for our salvation, to save us from sin and from its consequences. He suffered on the cross and died a death only possible because he became a man. Had that been all, it would have been enough.

But God also “came down from heaven” for us (because he loved us). It was not just to pardon our sins by his death… Not just to restore us to a state of innocence… but also, and ultimately, to share with us his divine life, union with God, the same union we will experience in both body and soul in heaven.

In the face of the sinner, God did not merely wish to acquit the crime, to leave the murderer a pardoned murderer, but rather to put a ring on his finger and – precisely by wedding human nature – give him a dignity he did not deserve by making him a partaker in the divine nature. St. Irenaeus reminds us this: “For this is why the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”So, for the rest of Advent and this Christmas season (the celebration is more than one day), let us keep in mind, not only the great mystery of Christ’s birth and what that made possible (his crucifixion and our salvation), but also the end result of that birth and resultant salvation, the hope of heaven as partakers of God’s own very life.

Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!


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