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Christmas Presence
Christmas Presence

A Sign of God’s Love

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Father Richard counts the German Jesuit Karl Rahner (1904–1984) as an influential theologian in his life. Here Rahner reflects on the Incarnation and the meaning of Christmas:

If in faith we say, “It is Christmas”—in faith that is determined, sober, and above all courageous—then we mean that an event came bursting into the world and into our life, an event that has changed all that we call the world and our life. . . .

Through this fact, that God has become human, time and human life are changed. Not to the extent that God has ceased to be Godself, the eternal Word of God, with all splendor and unimaginable bliss. But God has really become human. And now this world and its very destiny concern God. . . . Now God’s self [as Jesus] is on our very earth, where he is no better off than we and where he receives no special privileges, but our every fate: hunger, weariness, enmity, mortal terror and a wretched death. That the infinity of God should take upon itself human narrowness, that bliss should accept the mortal sorrow of the earth, that life should take on death—this is the most unlikely truth. But only this—the obscure light of faith—makes our nights bright, only this makes them holy.

God has come. God is there in the world. And therefore everything is different from what we imagine it to be. . . . When we say, “It is Christmas,” we mean that God has spoken into the world his last, his deepest, his most beautiful word in the incarnate Word. . . . And this word means: I love you, you, the world and human beings. [1]

Father Richard also celebrates the Incarnation as God’s positive and affirming “I Love You” to all creation:

What we are all searching for is Someone to surrender to, something we can prefer to life itself. Well, here is the wonderful surprise: God is the only one we can surrender to without losing ourselves. The irony is that we find ourselves, and now in a whole new and much larger field of meaning. An eternal promise came into the world at Christmas, “full of grace and of truth” (John 1:14). Jesus is the gift totally given, free for the taking, once and for all, to everybody and all of creation. This Cosmic Risen Christ really is like free wireless, and all we need to do is connect.

Henceforth humanity has the right to know that it is good to be human, good to live on this earth, good to have a body, because God in Jesus chose and said “yes” to this planet and this humanity. As we Franciscans have said, “Incarnation is already Redemption.” The problem is solved. Now go and utterly enjoy all remaining days. Not only is it “always Advent,” but every day can now be Christmas because the one we thought we were just waiting for has come once and for all.

Karl Rahner, The Eternal Year, trans. John Shea (Helicon Press: 1964), 21, 22. Note: minor edits made for inclusive language.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent (Franciscan Media: 2008), 72–73.

Story from Our Community:
Not having seen my family for a very long time we reunited last Christmas and celebrated the newest arrival to our family. Holding baby Holly in my arms for the first time I was moved by the sound of her tiny breath. I felt as if I was holding the gift of God and it inspired me to write these few lines: I have searched the world, / No stone unturned. / Then I found you, / In the tiny second of a breath. / New Born. —Deirdre C.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: Jesus came as an ordinary person. This small, simple, beautiful bud—with its extraordinary ordinariness—reminds us to see the goodness in creation and be present to this moment, right here, right now.
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