Layered mysteries

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At Christmas, we are dealing with incomprehensibles.
The one through whom God brought everything into existence and gave every living thing life — his Son — received human life from a young woman and became her child. If God’s power and splendor infinitely exceed our understanding, his Son’s taking on our human nature seems even farther beyond our grasp.
The mystery is that what is unimaginably great entered so totally into our everyday world as to become virtually invisible. At the end of today’s Gospel, Joseph “took his wife into his home” (Mt 1:24).
Picture it: Joseph and Mary living together in a little stone house (three or four rooms, a courtyard, a storage basement and a water cistern), jammed in a dense cluster of similar houses. The neighbors, and Joseph and Mary themselves, go about their routines from day to day — farming, construction, weaving, cooking and so on.
People come and go, sharing news, telling stories, cracking jokes. And all the while, unseen, God is present, growing in the darkness of his mother’s womb.
There is an additional mystery to all of this. It is the mystery that it is for us.
It was not only into the ordinary world of Nazareth that God’s Son came, and not only into the first century. His coming among us is permanent and for people in every place — not only in Nazareth but in Newark, Nashville and New Orleans.
This was implied already, ahead of time, by the prophecy of Isaiah that is today’s first reading. In Isaiah’s day, a child was to be born who would be called “God is with us” (“Emmanuel” — Is 7:14). This was a foreshadowing of Jesus.
What is vital, and most deeply mysterious, is that Jesus is God with humanity not in a merely general way but in a way that is individual and personal. In our second reading, Paul tells the Christians in Rome, “You also ... are called to belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom 1:6).
God sent his Son into the world for humanity as a whole, yes; but in doing so, he had each of us in mind. When our time to be born into this world arrived, he intended to call us into life with his Son.
Christmas is a celebration to which each of us has received a personal invitation.