After centuries of waiting and preparation on the part of the Chosen People, God sent the Savior into the world to bring us peace, to take away our sins, to teach us how to live in justice, harmony and love: in our families, in our neighborhoods, in our parishes, in our whole society.
But who is this Savior, this Christ and Lord? Who is this Jesus born as a little child in Bethlehem?
He is true God and true man. He is first of all the Son of the eternal Father, divine like His Father in heaven. But He is also the Son of the Virgin Mary, human like His Mother and like us. Mary is the one who conceived the Child by the power of the Holy Spirit and carried Him in her womb. She gave Him birth and nourished Him at her breasts. We see her represented in the crib scene, with the Infant Jesus.
The Child is also the foster Son of Joseph the carpenter, the husband of Mary. It is Joseph who will protect the Child and help bring Him up, since this Child Jesus had no human father.
According to God's plan, Jesus was conceived in an extraordinary way by the power of the Holy Spirit. God is His Father. We call Him the Splendor of the Father for He is the Second Person of the Most Blessed Trinity. Before His birth He already existed as the eternal Word of God, the eternal Son of God.
These then are the two most important truths about the person of Jesus Christ. These are the two identifying characteristics of the Child: He is true God, because He is the Son of God. He is true Man, because He is the Son of Mary.
But the Child is one Person, and His name is Jesus, which means Savior. He has, however, two natures: the nature of God – a divine nature; and the nature of man – a human nature.
In every way He is like His Father, and in every way He is like His Mother. And in every way He is like us, except sin.
Who then is the Child of Bethlehem? He is the Son of God and He is the Son of the Virgin Mary. He is, therefore, the One who links divinity with humanity. He is the Mediator between God and man. Because He is God, He has the power to save us from our sins. Because He is human like us, He has a human body, a human soul and a human heart with which to love us and to die for us, in order to save us from our sins and to bring us peace.
How beautiful are the words of the prophet Isaiah: "A child is born to us; a son is given to us; upon his shoulders dominion rests." Among His titles is "Prince of Peace." Isaiah also tells us that the Child who is born as Savior is the Light of the World. Let us listen to Isaiah: "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone." How wonderful is this light today in our world that has so much darkness!
In answer to our question: Who is this Child? this Christ? this Jesus born in Bethlehem? the Church repeats: He is the Son of God. He is the Son of Mary. He is the Light of the World. But He is even more: this Child who is born to us, this Son who is given to us is the great defender of humanity.
Jesus Christ, who is God and man and who was born in Bethlehem, is the One who reveals to us the dignity of every person who shares humanity with Him and with Him is destined to share eternal life.
Jesus Christ is the One who tells us that the humanity which He has assumed, which he has embraced in the womb of the Virgin Mary, is a humanity worthy of honor, respect and love.
And everyone who possesses that humanity possesses dignity, regardless of race or ethnic background, regardless of sex, religion, culture or degree of education. A human being is important not because of what he or she has or does, but because of what he or she is. What is so important is the fact that every man, woman and child shares humanity with the Son of Mary, who is the Son of God.
Here we find the impact of Christmas on the world. Christmas means that every human life is sacred, because God has embraced human life, Christ has assumed it. Whatever wounds, weakens or destroys human life, and therefore vilifies human dignity, challenges the primacy of God, a God who "was born of the Virgin Mary and became man." Tonight as we recite the Creed of our Mass, the Church invites us to genuflect when we say those words, in order to show that we accept the great reality of the Incarnation of the Son of God, with all its consequences.
There is no way that we can accept to love and honor the humanity of Jesus Christ the Savior and at the same time reject the humanity of those whom He has loved and saved. We cannot love Jesus Christ and refuse to love our fellow human beings, whom He loves.
Dearly beloved: this holy night of Christmas challenges us to renew our faith in the Child of Bethlehem, Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Son of Mary, the Light of the World and the defender of human dignity. We are called to adore Him. But this holy night of Christmas also challenges us to follow His teaching to love and serve one another, to honor the dignity of every man, woman and child who shares humanity with the Son of God.
In this Christmas Eucharist we receive the strength and grace to honor the Child and, with Him, all those whom He loves, all those who share humanity with Him, and with Him are destined for eternal life.
Dear friends: the angel's message is for all of us and for the whole world: "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today… a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord."
Truly you will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger. Above all, you will find Him hidden in the Eucharist and there you must adore Him. But you will also find Him in every human person that mirrors His glory, and there too you must love Him.
All of this, dear friends, is the message of Christmas. It is a message of hope-the good news of great joy to be shared by all the people. Amen.