And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us. ~Jn 1:14
If the mystery of Christmas were to be summoned up in one word from scripture, perhaps one of the best contenders for that word would be Emmanuel, Hebrew for “God with us.” The verse from the Prologue of the Gospel of John, which is read at the Mass during the Day on Christmas, communicates essentially the same truth. God has made his dwelling (literally the Greek means “he has pitched his tent”) with us. However, the Gospel of John reveals to us the shocking content of Isaiah’s prophetic Emmanuel. Not only is God Trinity: Father, Son (the Word), and Holy Spirit, but that the Word of God became flesh. Though written in Greek, the use of the word flesh here should not be understood as excluding a human soul, the spiritual aspect of man, but rather in the Hebrew use of the term flesh, which expresses the totality of the reality of the human person (recall from Mark 10:8, husband and wife are no longer “two” but “one” flesh). God takes to himself all that we are: liberty, memory, understanding, will, and body. He “abbreviates” himself to make himself accessible to us. God now has a face, has hands, has a heart. God knows our joy, our grief, our hunger. And because of his in-fleshness, his in-carnation, the universe has the potential of being an instrument by which his presence with us might be manifested and celebrated. God is with us forever. Let no one be sad this day. Merry Christmas!
Fr. Richard Hinkley