The eternal Word, born of the Father before time began, today emptied himself for our sake and became man.
Antiphon 3, Evening Prayer I
A baby is born in Bethlehem, and all the world is changed. God has become man. I’ll say it again – God has become man. All religions are not the same. A baby is born in Bethlehem, and all the world is changed.
Christianity is the only religion to claim the God-Man. Other faiths claim prophets, or representations of a spiritual entity, but only Christians claim that the God they worship, the God they claim created the heavens and the earth, became a human being and lived among us in the flesh.
I can recall the first time that this fact really struck me. I was a student in Rome and was on the Scavi tour at Saint Peter’s Basilica. We were at the tomb of Saint Peter, and I was looking at his bones. Now, my family had a custom of visiting the cemetery, usually at Christmas and Easter, placing flowers at the graves of our relatives, and praying for them. As I was “visiting the grave” of Peter the Apostle, the thought occurred to me that this was similar to visiting my grandparents’ graves. Then I thought, “Oh my gosh, Peter was a real person!” Then, immediately following, “If Peter was a real person, then Jesus was a real person!” Thus began my insatiable appetite for all things theological. I just had to learn everything I could about this Jesus – this very real person who walked this earth.
The Incarnation is a doctrine of faith unique to Christianity. When this doctrine is ignored or underappreciated, Jesus can become anything from a wise prophet to Santa Claus. He is neither. He is the God-Man, the perfect, intimate unity of God and human. He is the One who, by His death and resurrection, makes it possible for all humans to be intimately united to God the Father. Therein lies our Christmas joy!
A baby is born in Bethlehem, and all the world is changed.
Carmina Chapp is Associate Director of Theology Programs at Saint Joseph’s College Online.