[Exodus 40:17-21; 34-38 / Titus 3:4-7 / John 1:1-14]
To get the full impact of the Gospel for today you need to be looking upon the Babe in the manger as you read it. To look upon that little one and say of Him: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He - this little One we see here before our eyes - He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him was not any thing made that was made. That little baby. That’s who He is. And so in Him was life and the life was the light of men and the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
For a light would indeed shine forth from that little one. Not only a metaphorical light, but Peter and James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration would one day SEE that uncreated light that pours from the flesh of the God-Man. The glory of God in the flesh of man. It’s always there in Him - but He didn’t show it most of the time He walked among us. But it was there. And it is literally light - uncreated light. The light that God is. And from the moment the child was conceived in the Blessed Virgin’s womb, that light was in human flesh.
Some people thought John the Baptist was the light. But he was only sent to bear witness to the light so that all might believe through him. The true light that brings light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world and the world was made by Him and yet, and yet the world did not know Him, did not recognize Him, did not welcome Him. The world of people, that is. Only His holy mother and St. Joseph and a handful of shepherds recognized and rejoiced in who had come among us this holy day. Indeed, He came to His own people and His people did not receive Him, did not welcome Him, did not want Him. Thus, no room in the inn. His own people the Jews that He - yes, that little baby - had created for Himself. For He it is who called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees and made Him the impossible promise of offspring. He it is who wrestled with Jacob on the banks of Jabbok. He it is who delivered Joseph and raised him up to save his people. He it is who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave the law on Sinai. He it is who led His people out of Egypt and established them in the land of Canaan. He is it who spoke through the prophets and constantly called His people to turn from their false gods and to find in Him their hope and their salvation. He it is. The Child of Mary, the Child in the manger. He’s that God, the only and real one and as His people constantly turned from Him through the long centuries of His patience, so they turned also when He came among us. But that didn’t stop His love.
To all who did receive Him - the babe in the manger, the man of the cross, the victor over death and the grave, the triumphant and ascended Lord, our Brother, our God and our King - to all who received Him, that is, who believed in His name, to them He gave a precious gift. He gave them the right to become what He is. All that is His, He came to give to you. He the everlasting Son of the Eternal Father came to make you His Father’s children. To make you His coheirs. To give you a new birth.
We heard of it in our second reading: When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness - fat chance! - but according to His own mercy. He saved us by the washing in which the Holy Spirit gave us a new birth and a new life - poured out richly on us through Jesus Christ our Savior so that having been justified by faith, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. For that is how He brings us into the family by Baptism and all that is His He makes over to us, even as He came among us that all that is ours - sin, death, and hell - might be made over to Him so that He could destroy them forever.
Baptism then, the right to become children of God. His birth - sinless and bringing forth holiness, life everlasting. Ours - sinful and bringing forth sin and death. He swaps them out in Baptism, and lifts us up to being children with Him, heirs of a heavenly Kingdom.
And don’t think it’s yours by birth, by decent, or by some choice of your will. All those thoughts are wiped out. It’s yours only and wholly as a gift of God. Unlooked for, unguessed. He became the child of man to make men the children of God.
And so, the Word - the Eternal Word through whom all were created - became flesh and dwelt among us. The Greek is vivid. Pitched His tent among us. Tabernacled among us. And do you see the glory then?
Back to the first reading. God pitches His tent, His tabernacle and the glory fills it. And so He came among us that His glory might be restored to us, for “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” He wants that glory to be yours. And it is yours as He pitches His tent among us. “Word made flesh the bread He taketh by His Word His flesh to be; Wine His sacred blood He maketh though the senses fail to see. Faith alone the true heart waketh to behold the mystery.” He who made you His tabernacle in Holy Baptism and gave you all that is His continues to come to you today in the Eucharist to impart His very life to you, His forgiveness, His mercy, His very self, the flesh that He received from Mother Mary and the blood that He offered up on the tree for the wiping out of your sin. And so you get to be a tabernacle of God - as the eternal Word of the Father lives in you with the promise then that your glory, hidden now, will one day shine even as His, for He is your glory. Your Jesus. Full of grace and truth. From womb to manger, from manger to cross, from tomb to the Father’s throne, coming in glory again and yet coming to you even today under the form of bread and wine. The Word made flesh.
O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us we pray.
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
Their great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord, Emmanuel.