Today’s vespers make us enter into the mystery of Christmas. Our Seraphic Father, Saint Francis of Assisi, used to call Christmas the “Feast of Feasts”.
Spontenously comes to my mind what the earliest biographer of Saint Francis wrote in his Memoriale Desiderio Animae de Gestis et Verbis Sanctissimi Patris Nostri Francisci (or The Memorial of the Desire of a Soul Concerning the Deeds and Words of Our Most Holy Father Francis often simply called the Second Life): “The birthday of the Child Jesus Francis observed with inexpressible eagerness over all other feasts, saying that it was the feast of feasts, on which God, having become a tiny infant, clung to human breasts” (2 Celano, 199). Put simply for Francis the incarnation of God in the person of Jesus Christ, theSecond Person of the Most Holy Trinity, is the sublime act of God’s fraternal solicitude towards us, human beings.
The Pauline text from the Letter to the Galatians captures the Son of God’s insertion among our human categories of space and time. “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).
The same can be said of John’s prologue. Here the evangelist powerfully portrays Jesus’ insertion into our human frailty with his utmost glory. First John tells us who this Jesus really is. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, andthe Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).
Then he moves on by saying that “the Word [which] was God” (John 1:1) became our very brother. “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
What a great risk Jesus undertook by becoming our brother! He risked being rejected by the very world He created with the Father in the Spirit! He risked being refuted by his own people! Yet, He came! But why did He come? Jesus came amongst us because his concern was only one thing: that of doing His Father’s will. In the Johannine Gospel Jesus kept emphasizing this fact more than once throughout the Gospel. “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). “I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30). “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:38-40).
Hence, Jesus’ birth has a definite purpose, that you and me might have eternal life. A life that starts from here, in this world! Jesus, being our brother, wants us to live in, with and through Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” (John 15:5).
Lord Jesus, my Elder Brother, transform me into your shared brotherhood with me. Amen.