The Ultimate Sign of Love

Note: The following is based on a lesson I taught this past weekend for our middle school Sunday school students. 

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Incarnation

Incarnation

This week, we celebrate the Incarnation, made known by the birth of our Lord Jesus. Everyone knows the Nativity story, about the Baby in the manger. We’ve all heard the songs, the Bible readings; we’ve all watched the movies and the Christmas pageants. But how often do we really think about what it all means and why God did this amazing thing?

CCC: Reasons God became Man: Jesus came to earth …

  1. To reconcile us with God the Father
  2. So that we would know that God loves us.
  3. So that we would have a model of holiness.
  4. To unite our human nature with God’s divine nature.

Reconciliation: After Original Sin, God had to banish Adam and Eve from Eden so that they would not eat of the Tree of Life. This sounds like it’s a harsh punishment, but they had lost all Sanctifying Grace in their souls, and would not be able to be with God in that state. If they ate the Tree of Life in that condition, they would have lived forever in complete separation from God. 

By Sebastian Bergmann from Siegburg, Germany (Expulsion from Eden Uploaded by Pieter Kuiper) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

When He told them to leave the Garden, God promised a Savior then and there; he told them that he would put enmity between the serpent and the woman, between his seed and hers, and that the serpent would bruise His heel and He would crush the serpent’s head.

All through the Old Testament, God made one Covenant after another with Mankind, beginning with the marriage covenant with Adam and Eve. Through these Covenants, God would tell us again and again that He loves us, that even when we are unfaithful, He remains faithful. God’s people are called His bride, someone dearly loved by God. A prophet even talks about how Israel (the first people God made a Covenant with) was like an unfaithful wife whose husband will take her back because he loves her so much.

The final Covenant is made through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  This was God’s way to finally open the gates of Heaven.

When we think of what we have and who we are, about our gifts and talents, we have to admit that these are really gifts from God. All we have is a gift from God, with one exception: our sins. This is the only thing that is completely our own, and God Himself came from Heaven, became a human being, and then died to take them away. All of this so that we could be reconciled with God and live with Him forever in Heaven.

We know God loves us: God could have saved us from our sins any way He wanted. He could have come in any form: a ruler or king who demands things, a warrior who leads an army to establish an earthly kingdom. But Jesus didn’t come this way, even though a lot of people thought that was how the Savior would come.

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Jesus came into this world just like every other human being: Jesus came as a helpless baby. He came into the world as a humble, poor child. He didn’t even have a decent place to be born! (Think of a barn, with the animals and the poop and the hay and the feed everywhere. Think of the SMELL. Is that where you’d want a newborn?) 

IMG_0388Why did God do this? Why would He come to us this way? Because God wanted to show us that He loved us enough to become humble and small and helpless. He loved us enough that He sacrificed for us, not just on the Cross, but beginning right there at His birth. He was born in a cave that served as a barn. Not long after that, His family had to flee the country to escape Herod’s army, who was killing all the little boys who were younger than 2. And He ultimately died on the Cross for us.

But God loves us so much He was willing to do all of this, so that we can be with Him. And He leaves the decision up to us, too. God’s love is completely free. He asks nothing of us that we aren’t willing to give Him out of our own love for Him. He holds nothing back from us. Saint John told us that God is Love. Love itself! And in his letter to the Church, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI said, “Since God has first loved us, love is now no longer a mere command; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.”

What this means is that all that we are supposed to do for God, we’ll be willing and happy to do when we discover His love for us and love Him in return. We’ll WANT to do well. We’ll WANT to “bend the knee,” as the Bible says. We can’t help but do things to please God, because we love Him.

Model of Holiness: We have all kinds of role models in this life. We look up to all sorts of people: sports stars, movie stars, writers, singers, musicians, dancers… A lot of times, we think about wanting to be just like that person – and then we find out now NOT-perfect he is when he does something wrong. It’s all over the news, and we start wondering if there’s anyone we can look up to.

All through the Old Testament, God gave His people role models to show them how to live a holy life. But none of them were perfect. Even David, who was a man after God’s heart, committed some serious sins. (He repented, and strived to live a holy life, which is why God loved him so much.) But all that time, God knew that when the time was right, He would come into the world and show His people first-hand how to live a holy life.

Jesus did this for us. Jesus never sinned, and He lived a life of perfect holiness. Jesus is our role model for how to live, and He will never let us down. He shows us how to be virtuous, how to love people, how to put others before ourselves. And we can trust Him, even when we don’t think we can trust anyone else.

Unite our nature with God’s: Jesus became a Man so we could become more like God. But we can’t know God unless He reveals Himself to us in some way. Remember we talked about signs from God? Jesus is the definitive sign of God, because He perfectly reveals God to us. We can know God because we can know Jesus. Before the Incarnation, we couldn’t fully know God, but because of God becoming Man, we now can know God fully and be with Him in Heaven forever. In the meantime, Jesus has given us the Church and the Sacraments to help us grow closer to Him.

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Mary and Jesus, at the Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe

Mary and Jesus, at the Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe

Above everything else, we have to remember one thing: God is a Person. He is real, and He loves us. And when we remember God is a Person, that Jesus is that Person Incarnate, we can come to know Him through His Word (in Scripture) and His Church.

If we remind ourselves that God is a Real Person, that can help us understand that we can have a relationship with Him. We can learn about Him, and grow to really love Him. And when you love someone, you want to do all you can to make that person happy! You want to do little things that would make them smile, or give them little gifts. You want to spend time with them, talk to them, write notes or text them when you’re away.

Think about God this way: He loves us so very much. He loves us so much that he Sacrificed by becoming a human being and living a life like any of us. He went through all the things we go through, and lived a perfect life while doing it. He knows what it means to be cold or hungry or scared or excited. He knows what it’s like to look forward to something so much that it’s hard to wait! He knows what it’s like to have a friend you think you can trust who lets you down. He knows what it’s like to have friends abandon you. He knows what it’s like to be made fun of, to be picked on.

He didn’t need to do things that way. But He did. Because He loves us. He wants us to know we can make it, and He’s here to help.

On Christmas morning, think about these things. When you go to Mass for Christmas, whether it’s the 6:30 Vigil, Midnight Mass, or anything on Christmas Day, remember that God could have come any way He wanted to, but He chose to come into this world just like you and me.  Thank Him for that. Thank Him for loving you and being there for you. Thank Him for showing you how to live a good and holy life. And thank Him for the joy He brings us!

And let’s all spend the next year working hard to know Him better and to love Him better than ever.