And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. These words from the Gospel of John are familiar to most of us and we will hear them at Mass on Christmas morning. It could be easy to take them for granted, but in fact this is the very mystery of the Incarnation, and something we should rightly contemplate during this Advent season.
What does it mean for us today that the Word became flesh?
We live in a fallen world, and one need not look far to see that the sense of God and the meaning of human existence are all but vanishing from the cultural landscape. While many are “looking for love in all the wrong places”, God has placed the answer to this longing for the love that truly satisfies right before our eyes. Advent is the key to helping us open our eyes and prepare our hearts to embrace this mystery of Love.
O come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Just as ancient Israel longed for a Savior, so do we. What holds us captive? Advent is a penitential season; it gives us a chance to look at our lives and renew our hearts. Where are the dark places in our lives? God wants to touch them with His light. The candles of the Advent wreath remind us that Christ is the Light of the world. With each candle that is lit, let us draw closer to the Light. Will we be open to His grace? How important it is to remember that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not only helpful, but necessary. Let us avail our
selves of the opportunity to confess our sins and failures, and allow Christ to heal our wounds and restore our souls. After all, isn’t this why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us?
As we prepare to enter the mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas, let us contemplate one of the hallmark statements of Saint John Paul II in his Theology of the Body: “Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, the body entered theology through the main door.” In describing the great gift of the human person made in the image and likeness of God, he continues, “The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world, the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus to be a sign of it.”
Thus, when we enter into the season of Advent, we set out to prepare our hearts to receive the gift of the Word Made Flesh. We wait in hope as we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s humble birth. With Mary, we ponder the awesome reality that God saved the world through a baby, a Divine Infant, who by becoming one of us touched the hearts of lowly shepherds and royal kings. He who is God became man so that we could see in the flesh what Love incarnate looks like. He shows us the truth about ourselves and gives us the desire to live in accordance with that truth, that we may become whole. No matter what burdens we may be carrying, as we look at the Child in the manger, we can let His gaze of Love heal and restore us.
Advent provides an opportunity to ready our hearts and souls to truly receive and appreciate the joy of the Incarnation we celebrate on Christmas. It is worth taking the time to prepare well.