And the Word became flesh (Jn 1:14)
Christmas – Liturgy of the Day
The language of God
A young man was intrigued by this question: what language does God speak? He asked people around, what is the language of God? And no one was able to offer him a satisfactory answer. So the young man undertook a journey going in search of the answer to his all-important question. His first stop was a village. He asked the people there: what language does God speak? None of them could answer the question. “But,” they said, “There is a holy man who lives on the hill outside our village who perhaps has the answer to your question.” So the young man went to the holy man. Holy, for sure, he was. And the man said, “Look around you. See the beauty of creation: the green meadow, the flowing stream, the glistening sun, the romantic moon and the gentle breeze. Yes, this is the language of God.” So the young man stayed there enjoying the beauty of creation. God was there but the young man was not satisfied. Creatures, after all, are not perfect enough! So after a few days he said good-bye to the holy man and went on his way.
Along the way, the young man came across a group of men who looked very austere, serene and wise. He told them of his journey and his search. They said, “God speaks the language of your heart. Sit and meditate. You will hear Him.” That is what the young man did. He sat. He meditated. Day after day. He came to discover many truths about himself, God and about his relationships. This brought him much serenity, wisdom and meaning. Yet he was not convinced that his question had been answered. He had not experienced the voice of God tangibly. So he continued his journey.
After some months of search, he reached a holy place – a temple of sorts. There he saw a bearded man seated by the window trying to read from a scroll in the faint light. The young man approached him with much reverence. As if not to disturb him the young man put his question in a feeble voice: “Sir, what language does God speak?” The holy man looked up and said, “This, this book, it is the word of God. Read this and you will hear God.” The young man began to read the holy book. He spent day and night reading, reflecting, and listening to the holy man explain the writings. It was really enlightening. There were days when the young man would just open a section of the scroll and read, and it was as if the message came from God himself. Slowly he began to discover that there were some errors in the writing; there were some particularities of that culture and language. So he felt his question was not answered yet.
He continued his pilgrimage. He reached a city. It was getting dark. The city was crowded with people. And people were still pouring in for something important. He went around looking for a place to spend the night. There was no place in the inn. So he was directed to a cave in the outskirts of the city. When he entered the cave, there he saw a young couple with a new-born babe. As the young man stood hesitantly at the entrance, the mother welcomed him in. She showed him the little babe and said, “This is the language of God.”
God has spoken
In the second reading of today we heard the opening lines of the letter to the Hebrews: “At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son…” (Heb 1:1). Similar sentiments are expressed in the First Letter of John: “Something which has existed since the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have watched and touched with our own hands, the Word of life — this is our theme. That life was made visible; we saw it and are giving our testimony, declaring to you the eternal life, which was present to the Father and has been revealed to us. We are declaring to you what we have seen and heard, so that you too may share our life. Our life is shared with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1Jn 1:1-3).
We have reasons to celebrate because God has spoken in a language beyond all spoken language. He is one of us. He has shared our human condition. This is the mystery that we celebrate today: “The word was made flesh, he lived among us” (Jn 1:14). Today, God is seen in the form of a little babe. Human babies generate a sense of awe in us. Babies create a sense of mystery. Babies attract us. Yes, God in Jesus, born today in the form of little babe attracts us. He invites us to see his glory. The little crib in our chapel with all those figurines simply tells us how concrete and tangible God has made himself to be.
That I may see, hear and touch
It is said that when St Francis of Assisi gave instructions to one John Velitta in the town of Greccio in Italy to prepare the first crib in 1293, with real animals and people, Francis seems to have said: “If you desire that we should celebrate this year’s Christmas together at Greccio, go quickly and prepare what I tell you; for I want to enact the memory of the Infant who was born at Bethlehem and how He was bedded in the manger on hay between a donkey and an ox. I want to see all of this with my own eyes.”
How marvelously true is the mystery that we celebrate today? God takes on a human form so that we might see Him with our own eyes. As the angels invited the shepherds on the night of the first Christmas, “Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you”, we are invited today to behold the God-made-flesh.
Let the celebration of Christmas, then, rekindle in us our own deep desire for God: to hear, see and touch Him.
“The Lord has made known his salvation.
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God,
Shout to the Lord all the earth, ring out your joy.” (Ps 97).
Fr Franco Pereira, S.D.B