Dec 24, 2010

Christmas - To know God's thoughts

Christmas Midnight Mass readings:

Is 9: 1-6
Titus 2: 11 - 14
Luke 2: 1-14

The German born astronomer and physicist, Albert Einstein, is known famously for his theory of relativity: E=mc2. While it sounds simple, I have no idea what that means or how it is applied. All I know is that it has something to do with the speed of light, I think. But, what Einstein is also known for is his belief in God. He is ranked in history as one scientist who did believe in a divine creator.

As Einstein studied the universe in all its complexity and beauty, he queried: “I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details.” I would suspect that most of us are right in line with this scientific genius. We ponder what God is thinking more often than we are willing to admit and struggle between faith and doubt. Any clarity would make life far less stressful. I don’t know about you but I’m sitting here with a list of questions.

Why he allows both good and evil to compete side by side is likely a question that will plague humankind until Christ comes again. However, Christmas may offer us a window into a partial answer. God is sending us a message – revealing his thoughts.

The beautiful Gospel for Christmas Morning Mass, the prologue from the Gospel of John states: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn 1: 14). It is that Word – Christ Jesus, God in the flesh – who has revealed the very thoughts of God. Or at least enough of them to give us hope. How?

By the very act of incarnation – the joining of divine and human natures – we see and hear what is on God’s mind; that he loves his creation and that in a singular way, he loves humanity. That human life is above all, most sacred of all God’s creation. As God became human, he expressed a desire to join forever, purely out of love, with all of humanity. Jesus, in a true sense, became every-man and every-woman who has ever lived, lives now, and will exist in future times – every person who wants to know God and live a life beyond themselves.

The Gospel for Midnight Mass from Luke 2: 1-14 is the age old story of Bethlehem, no room at the inn, Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary, a host of angels announcing to shepherds out in their fields and the angelic sound of “Glory to God in the highest.” It is a story filled with beauty, simplicity, and high emotion. Although we may have heard it time and time again, we never tire of it. There is a timeless quality about it.

What else God thought was that he would come among the poor and lowly not the high and mighty. That he would quietly insert himself into human history in a form that was threatening to no one – that of an infant: perfect, innocent, harmless, and simple. This creator of the universe in all its complexity now lies in a manger as a human baby so that we might approach him without fear and trembling to seek a share in his life. However, the two thoughts could not be farther apart: God, the tremendous mystery beyond human comprehension lies before us as one like ourselves. It is an invitation to incarnate faith itself.

Whether we understand it or not, whether it makes logic to us or not, whether it seems so highly contradictory or not, it is what God was thinking. No longer was he just mulling it over in his divine mind but now he acted in sending his Son among us. He wanted to speak to us on our terms; not a word of punishment and destruction but a word of love, mercy, reconciliation, and an invitation to put our faith in his person, Christ Jesus Son of God and son of Mary. His example shows the Way for our lives so often confused, lost, fear – filled, angry, self-indulgent.

God could have come any way he chose; in power and majesty or in humility and simplicity for power can be exercise in one of two ways: by taking or giving. God chose to give. As St. Paul reminds us in the second reading at midnight Mass: “The grace of God has appeared . . . who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own . . .” (Titus 2: 11-14).

And so if what he did in Bethlehem wasn’t enough, he did even more in Jerusalem. The ultimate expression of God’s thoughts, was that he wanted to remain forever joined with us beyond his time here on earth. He left us his abiding presence under the signs of a meal; a place where those who have been baptized, reconciled, and offered a new way of life can gather. Our celebration of the Eucharist is a perpetual memorial of the enduring presence of God among us.

No longer is he the baby but now the risen Lord and Savior of humanity. While much of what God continues to “think” remains hidden from us, the Christmas mystery uncovered more of what is on God’s “mind” than we would have ever known by any other means. And for that, we cry out with the Angels:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (Lk 2: 14).