Christmas is the Feast of Love. This feast is when we enter into the deep mystery of the Incarnation. The Word was incarnate of the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation, but now we lovingly behold the Christ-child lying in a manger who has come to save us. We tangibly gaze upon God’s love for us. Our God, who did not abandon us to sin and death, but who instead took on our human flesh in order to save us and enter into union with Him.
It is at Christmas when we encounter the immense love God has for us. He does not remain far from us. Instead, the God of the Universe, who created all things, comes as a vulnerable baby. He surrenders to His creatures, Our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, for all of His earthly needs. The Lord empties out all visible signs of His power, glory, and might, so that we may approach Him as a helpless child. He meets us in our poverty.
Out of love for us, Jesus not only stripped Himself of all His greatness and majesty, but from the very first moment of His earthly life, He embraced every possible privation.Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, Divine Intimacy, #31
It is here that we begin to understand how strange God’s love is for us and how His love is so unlike our own. We who grasp at power, honor, pleasure, riches, and control are called to look upon our God, who has come defenseless into the world, so that we may learn to empty ourselves. Love is not found in worldly desires and the ego. It is found in a total surrender to God and His will. It can only be discovered and lived through an emptying of self. To gaze upon Our Lord in the manger is to be confronted with the littleness of our own love and the tremendous gift of Divine love.
God is Love! An immense treasure contained in these words, and it is the treasure which God discloses to souls who devoutly contemplate the Incarnate Word. Until we comprehend that God is infinite love and infinite benevolence, who gives Himself and extends Himself to all men in order to communicate to them His goodness and His happiness, our spiritual life has still just begun; it has not yet developed or deepened. Only when the soul, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, has penetrated the mystery of divine charity, only then does its spiritual life attain to full maturity.Ibid #30
We are not only invited to simply gaze upon the Christ-child from a distance. We are invited to enter into the depths of His love. He calls to us and we must answer with our whole lives. The love of God cannot be lived while our hearts and minds are cluttered with other loves. As long as we place the things of this world, the flesh, or the lies of the devil before Him, we will never find our true happiness. We will never be able to respond to the longing awakened in our hearts at Christmas. If we understand the depths of His love, then we come to understand that we can hold nothing back from Him.
Christ shows us the way through this Feast of Love. He wants us to abandon everything we hold back from Him and try to foolishly hold on to. We must be set free from anything that keeps us from His love.
To repay His infinite love, to prove our love for Him, let us resolve to strip ourselves generously of everything that could hinder our union with Him; above all, let us divest ourselves of self-love, pride, vanity, all our righteous pretensions. What a striking contrast between these vain pretenses of our “ego” and the touching humility of the Incarnate Word.Ibid
Love is meant to be reciprocal. In our fallen human experience, it often is not the case. We find ourselves in situations where we are not loved in return. Christ shows us at His birth that His love is trustworthy. He holds nothing back from us. He gives everything to us in love. This love shown to us at Christmas will reach its fulfillment in His passion, death, and resurrection.
If we give our whole hearts to Him, we will find our hearts overflowing with love and peace. We need not fear rejection or lack of reciprocity. It is in Him where true love enters into our hearts and casts out all fear because the love we long for is fulfilled in Him alone. There is nothing in this world that can satisfy us except Divine love pouring into our souls.
Through His self-emptying, Christ shows us that it is solely by a life of self-abnegation for love of Him and for love of others that we will be truly healed and find our ultimate freedom. We can only enter into this Feast of Love if we surrender our entire being to Him in love. This Christmas, let us resolve to lovingly give our entire being to the Christ-child who lies in the manger pouring out His love for us.
O Lord, sweet Incarnate Word, I wish to return by my love Your infinite love. I wish to prove by my actions that I really love You. What shall I do for You, O sweet Jesus? Out of love for You, I will strip myself of everything that is not You, for I desire nothing but You, and I want to become like You, who being God, became man.Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene
image: Giotto’s Nativity projected onto the Basilic of St. Francis of Assisi, photo by Buffy1982 / Shutterstock