Lights make Christmas beautiful. Driving around Stamford, it’s amazing to see the lengths people will go to coat their homes in the brilliant festive hues of Christmas. I find there’s something mystical about sitting quietly before a Christmas tree in a darkened room, basking in the radiant glow pouring forth from among the branches. It’s beautiful.
It’s also a fitting way to celebrate the birth of Jesus, Our Savior, in Bethlehem. We profess as Catholics that Jesus is God incarnate, true God and true man. This means that 2000 years ago, the Creator of all things entered His creation as a part of His Creation. It’s a central tenet of our faith that we accept, rarely considering its implications. How can it be that the finite world could contain its infinite Creator? It would be more conceivable to put the entire ocean into a thimble, or the sun into a 60W light bulb. Yet it is so, and what a wondrous thing it is that Creation survives the experience of the Incarnation – the marriage of humanity and divinity in the Person of Christ. On Christmas, Creation gazes upon its Creator lying in a manger, who returns the look with His human eyes, breathing the air and bearing the cold that receive their very existence from Him. How are we to comprehend this reality that defies comprehension?
We look for help in the Sacred Scriptures. In the third chapter of the Book of Exodus, while tending a flock of sheep, a strange sight catches the eye of Moses. It is a bush that is on fire. Although the bush is blazing, the flames do not consume it. It is there that Moses first encounters the Lord. The burning bush foreshadows the union of the divine and the human in Christ. Although Christ’s divine nature was normally hidden, veiled by His humanity while on earth, there is a moment in which He allows His divinity to radiate through His humanity in the presence of His disciples on Mount Tabor. “There, He was transfigured before them and His face shone light the sun and His clothes became dazzling white” (Mt 17:2). This is the effect of the presence of the divine in the world, a divinity that He shares with us without destroying our humanity.
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” writes the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. We catch a glimpse of that grandeur as we gaze upon the lights that garnish our greenery at Christmastime, which help us experience in our senses the divine life that radiates through God’s Creation. It is a mystical glow that emanates from those united to God in grace, hidden from our gaze, nonetheless real. May the beauty of the lights we see everywhere this time of year remind us of the beauty of a life lived with God, who came to live with us that first Christmas.