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the incarnation changes non-believers

GK Chesterton wrote that even those who don’t believe in the Incarnation are changed for having heard it. Christians celebrate this transformative revelation from Christmas Day through Epiphany, Jan. 6th. If you have taken in the story of the baby who is God, you simply are not the same person you were before.

Adapted from an opinion piece by Bishop Barron, Catholic Diocese of Winona-Rochester, MN; founder of Word on Fire.

First, your understanding of God is revolutionized. The God who can become a creature without ceasing to be God and without compromising the integrity of humanity stands in a noncompetitive relationship with the world.

The God of the Incarnation, though certainly distinct from the world, is the non-contrastively other. He isn’t competing with people. To shift the metaphor, He’s the author, responsible for every character in the story, yet never jostling for position among them.

This means that the closer God gets to a creature, the more beautiful and radiant that creature can become. Christians insists that nothing of the humanity of Jesus has to give way in the presence of His divinity. His humanity is lifted up, perfected and splendid: Christ is fully divine and fully human.

The noncompetitive transcendence of God advances the claim that God is love. To love is to will the good of the other. It is to be free of the egotism. It is truly to want what will benefit someone else. The God who has nothing to gain from the universe He created—who competes with nothing He has created can only desire its good.

The unnerving doctrine of the Incarnation also tells us a great deal about ourselves.

If God has stooped so low as to join humanity, then humans must have a purpose and destiny infinitely beyond anything proposed by humanism. In the light of Christmas, we see that the goal of human life isn’t simply to be ethically upright, politically powerful, aesthetically accomplished or autonomous. The goal of life is to partner with God.

This looks like love, since when we will the good of the other we partner in the divine nature.

At Epiphany, Christians remember the journey of the Magi to Bethlehem. The
magoi—magicians, astrologers, astronomers—sought knowledge in the stars and planets, but their deeper quest was for signs of the divine purpose. They were convinced that God would reveal something of His will through portents in the heavens.

The Magi represent all who have hungered and thirsted for meaning and purpose. The mysterious star led them to a surprising place: to Bethlehem where a child lay in a manger; where they found God stooping low to lift us up.

The apostle Matthew wrote that a dream warned the Magi to return home by another route. Of course they did, for as Archbishop Fulton Sheen observed: “No one who ever meets Christ with a good will returns the same way as he came.”

Blessed New Year,
Dan Nygaard