The Word was made flesh… and still dwells among us
By Fr Warrick Tonkin
DECEMBER is upon us and with it comes the buzz of summer, warmer weather, harvest time, the cricket season, and, of course, Christmas.
But do we take some time, in all of this busyness, to ponder why we celebrate Christmas at all? It is not just a holiday season, a time to pause from our usually busy lives. Christmas is that great ‘pause’ when we stop to reflect on, and give thanks to God, for the most momentous event in the history of humankind – the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God’s Son, became a human person, just like us (in all things but sin).
Every Sunday we stand as a community of faith in our respective parishes and gatherings and we recite the Creed, either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. In both of those statements of faith we profess, personally and collectively, that “He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,” or, “By the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man”.
The Church has a particular word to encapsulate this watershed moment in our history. It calls this event the Incarnation. Incarnation comes from the Latin word incarnus, which literally means “the enfleshment of”. So, this describes what actually happened, God became ‘enfleshed’ in the womb of the Virgin Mary at the time of the Annunciation (which we celebrate each year on March 25). In the fullness of time he was born, in Bethlehem, on what we now call Christmas Day. Sacred Scripture, and the ongoing Tradition of the Church tells us that he grew to manhood and ultimately suffered, died, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.
But now we hit a snag. Many people erroneously believe that the Incarnation ended with Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. That is not so! The Incarnation will never end. We are assured, via the Gospel of Matthew with Jesus’ own words: “And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time,” (Mt. 28:20).
How, then, is the Word made flesh in our world today? Yes, he is present in and through the Church when the Sacraments are celebrated and the Word of God, through the pages of Sacred Scripture, are proclaimed. But where else do we meet Jesus? We meet him in every human situation. We meet him in our families, and the tensions that can rise to the surface, especially at this time of the year. We meet him with those who struggle to provide the basic necessities of life for themselves and their loved ones. We meet him in our hospitals and our aged care facilities. We meet him in the refugee camps scattered throughout the world. We meet him in the shattered bodies and the torn faces of the victims of abuse and terror in all its forms, from sexual abuse and domestic violence, to abominable acts of mass terror.
Jesus is in all of those situations.
As we gather in our various ways at Christmas, spend some time reflecting on the reality that “the Word was made flesh …. and still dwells among us”.