The Revelation: Christmas and the divine light
The story of Jesus’ birth as it emerges from the Gospels is very concise and not embellished with poetic details or miraculous phenomena. The Evangelist Luke, employing the language of a chronicler, tells us that during the stay in Bethlehem the time came for Mary to have her child (Luke 2:6-7).
The manger is mentioned in this account, and we are provided with a very “everyday” image of Mary. Like all mothers, after nine months of waiting and after giving birth, she wraps the newborn in swaddling clothes and places him in a secure place. From the account nothing extraordinary would appear to have occurred, and yet this birth has radically changed the course of history.
Jesus Son of God, born from a woman and hence born just like all human beings, is subjected to the totality of the human experience. Through this Child Jesus, God wishes to encounter man, wants to draw near to him. St. John will say: “God has sent his Son” (1 John 4:9), clarifying the divine nature of Jesus, who chose to take bodily form in order to live the human condition and show man the way to get to the Father.
The Gospel of Mark is also very concise. In the first place, the Evangelist seeks to make clear that Mary had Jesus without “knowing” Joseph, indicating that Jesus was born through the work of the Holy Spirit and reaffirming the virginity of Mary. But what is clearly apparent in these accounts is the newness that is unfolding itself before the eyes of man: that of a God made man, who selected the earthly form, who selected the path of humiliation shedding his greatness and divinity to reach man, to make himself close to him and to share in his earthly journey.
The choice of poverty made by God, assuming the bodily form of a small child in Bethlehem, is a choice that leaves man, who has an altogether different image of the Messiah, perplexed, even scandalized.
The revelation of God in the flesh represents something entirely new. In this way the Love of the Father is unmistakably revealed. God gave man Light and the revelation in his Son. The Light of Christmas is this: the child of Bethlehem who has come to free man from the shadow of death and sin “the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light” (Matt 4:16).
This is the symbolism of the light that shines in the dark night, the light signifying life and happiness, that dispels the darkness of death. It is the radiance of the celestial world, a symbolic expression of the holiness and glory of God which shows the importance of the moment as an encounter of God with men.
This light and the extraordinariness of the moment help us to understand the joy of the moment, of the liberation that has come through the Incarnation. Christmas Eve is the moment that evokes one of the most tender and delicate events in the life of Jesus. Since antiquity Night has represented a time that is both special and propitious for divine revelations.
And it was in the night that the Incarnation of the Son of God took place. At this precise moment it almost seems as if all life in the universe stood still before the miracle of the Incarnation, to show that all creation was involved in the coming of the Messiah, which was to become the central event in human history.
The Holy Scripture frequently presents us the theme of peace and quiet in relation to the events in which God manifests himself and acts in history. Quiet represents an indispensable condition in order to be able to listen to and properly receive the eternal Word of the Father, that Word which manifested itself here in Bethlehem in the quiet of the cave, and which can be reborn each day in the hearts of those disposed to receive it.