There is something perpetually moving about the Christmas story. It is the account of how God became man, and, with magnificent indifference to human preoccupations with status and accomplishments, became man in a discomfiting fashion. The girl who became his mother was unmarried, her pregnancy understandably a profound shock to the man she was betrothed to. The family into which the Son of God was born was unprepossessing; Joseph was a carpenter. And, as Fr Richard Ounsworth points out on the scriptures of the day, the birth of Christ may indeed have been placed firmly in salvation history by the account of the genealogy of Christ, but it also upended the usual course of events by ending with Joseph – who was married to Mary.
At a time when the issue of consent in relations between the sexes looms very large, we should note that without the consent of Mary, the Incarnation could not have happened. She could have said “no”. She did not. But it was only with her words, “Be it done unto me according to thy word” that Christ was conceived. The salvation of man depended on a young Jewish teenager.
And let us remind ourselves that with the birth of Christ, God became human, God became man, and God became Jew. Salvation was extended to the whole human race, as we see later in this story, when the three wise men from the East came to worship the baby king. But unless we appreciate that Jesus was a Jew and was firmly rooted in the Jewish salvation history, we do not do justice to his humanity.
The story reminds us that God’s values are not our values; he sent the angels of heaven to rejoice in the skies above Bethlehem at the birth of a baby who was, in earthly terms, of no account. He sent those angels to declare the birth of the King of Kings to shepherds, who ranked low in the social hierarchy, but who were in the eyes of the angels exactly the people who should share the extraordinary news. They were, it would seem, the men of goodwill to whom the birth of Christ brings peace. God paid no account of our ideas about who matters when he became man. And that is one message we should carry from Christmas into the rest of the year.
This article is from the December 2021 issue of the Catholic Herald. Subscribe today.
Image caption: Benediction of God the Father, By Luca Cambiaso – Own work, Daderot, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33127181
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