God entered our ‘mess’ to save us — and he still does

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | December 20, 2018 | 0 Comments

I remember the first time I visited Bethlehem. I got out of the taxi into a noisy, dusty, dirty city square guarded by Israeli soldiers — not exactly the scene I pictured in my head as a child singing “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Upon entering the Basilica of the Nativity, visitors have to bend down to get into the door, which was designed small to keep camels out. It is one of the oldest continually-used churches in Christendom. Built by St. Helena in the fourth century, it frankly looks 1,700 years old. The walls are almost black from the candle soot, and the floor is filthy and worn from millions of pilgrims.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens

Bishop Andrew Cozzens

In the center of the church is an altar, and beneath the altar is a cave, and as you go down into the cave by a narrow staircase, you see another altar. And under that altar is a star, and written in the star are the words “Hic de Virgine Maria Iesus Christus natus est”: “Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.”

And this is the key point: Right there, in the middle of the dirt, the noise and the smell, God was born as a baby. God and his love for us are so real that you can actually draw a circle on the ground and say, “God was here.”

This truth of the Incarnation strikes me every year, but especially this year as I am praying and sacrificing for our Church. I have talked to many people who have spoken to me about how the struggles in our Church in 2018 have tested their faith, and others have told me they know people who have walked away from what seems like an all-too-human institution. In this context, the celebration of Christmas is a helpful — and hope-filled — reminder of two truths central to our faith.

First, salvation comes from God and not from us. Christianity is the story of God drawing near to us to save us. He has come after us. As the parable of the lost sheep makes clear, he left the 99 to come after us, the one sheep who was lost. He went so far as to share our human nature, with all its limitations. He lowered himself so much that he was even willing to die for our sins, as St. Paul explains in Philippians 2 and
Romans 5.

As St. John Paul II pointed out 24 years ago, while reflecting on the second millennium since Christ’s birth, this truth separates Christianity from every religion in the world. “Here we touch upon the essential point by which Christianity differs from all the other religions, by which man’s search for God has been expressed from earliest times,” he said in “Tertio Millennio Adveniente.” “Christianity has its starting-point in the Incarnation of the Word. Here, it is not simply a case of man seeking God, but of God who comes in Person to speak to man of himself and to show him [man] the path by which he may be reached.”

Christianity is not just about our search for God; it is about God’s search for us. This is the reason for our hope today: “He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” (Rom 8:32).

Second, God is not afraid to enter into our mess to save us. The Christmas story makes this abundantly clear when it points out that Mary “wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2:7). Here is the incredible paradox that marks the life of Jesus and reveals the mercy of God: The one who spoke into being the heavens and the earth, whose glory surpasses our wildest imagination, whose coming was announced by choirs of angels singing his praises, was born in a stable. It was the animals who adored him and the poorest of the poor, the shepherds who brought him gifts.

The world and all its glory would always reject him, but he will never reject us. His birth reveals that he is always ready to enter into our sinful world in order to bring us back to himself. This is a cause of our hope. The weakness and sinfulness present in our world and in our Church are not obstacles to him; rather, they are places he wants to come to show his mercy and invite healing repentance. This is also true of our hearts. The weakness and sinfulness present in my heart is no obstacle to him.

In the midst of the many struggles of our modern world and our Church, let us not lose hope. Jesus Christ does come to save us. He came 2,000 years ago and entered into our mess. He comes to our hearts through the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist. He comes every time we turn to him in honest prayer seeking him. He comes to save us from our sins and unite us to himself. He is not discouraged by the weakness of our world, but he is drawn to come and save us. Come Lord Jesus!

Dios entró en nuestro ‘lío’ para salvarnos, y él continua a

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Category: Only Jesus