Adoration of the Shepherds by Dutch painter Matthias Stomer, 1632. Palazzo Madama, Turin.
In giving us His Son, His only Word, He (the Father) spoke everything
to us at once in this sole Word—and He has no more to say… because
what He has spoken before to the prophets in part, He has now spoken
all at once by giving us ALL who is His Son.
St. John of the Cross
When I was preparing couples for their marriage, I always asked them a question during the last meeting before their wedding day: of all the people you’ve met or dated, why did you ask her or him to be your spouse? What made them so special you asked him or her to marry you? I will forever remember the answer a groom gave his future bride. He looked at her and spoke his heart with powerful words of love and affection of how special she was to him. The feeling of his words, along with his attention and devotion touched her deeply. She looked at him and started to cry while saying, “No one has ever said that to me before.”
People long for words of love, forgiveness, acceptance, and reconciliation. They want to hear that they matter and have importance not because of what they can do or accomplish, but because of who they are. No matter how old someone becomes or what great status they might achieve, the desire for those words never fades. The simplest of those words can restore a joy or a sense of purpose to life that may have been lost.
Christmas can be many things for many people. But above all it is the day the Father spoke His greatest Word, His Beloved, His Son, and broke the silence forever. “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God.” (John 1: 1) There is nothing greater that the Father could speak or give us then the Christ. In that one Word, the Father is saying that no one is ever forgotten or overlooked, no matter who they are, what they have done or what they have failed to do. It is the Father’s way of saying that we have won His heart to such an extent that He gives us the way to live life that leads to Him. Everything that humanity has longed to hear spoken to them, or were afraid might never be said to them, became flesh in Jesus the Christ.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory: the glory of an only Son coming from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1: 14) The Word dwelt among people who never heard words of forgiveness that truly liberate them from the past and allow them the chance to live a new life in the present moment. People never heard words that allowed them to see God as more than a harsh law giver. Lives were isolated in silence since religious leaders had nothing to say to the sick, the troubled, the alien expect that they were not accepted until they fulfilled the law along with petty rules and regulations. But the Word, the Christ, did speak such powerful life giving, hope-filled words to people that, like the bride to be, they might have said to Him, “No one has ever said that to me before.” Lives were changed as the sick were healed, the dead raised, the sinners forgiven and the broken heard the Good News. The Word spoke so loudly from the Cross that all humanity was reconciled to the Father.
There is nothing more that the Father can say to us. He has given everything He possibly could offer us in His Son. That does not mean there is now silence. The Word, Jesus the Christ, still dwells among the people He loves and speaks with constantly. His dwelling is not limited to a Christmas day or a season, but is meant for all times and all places. But only those who take the time to listen can appreciate that endless Christmas gift to people whose lives are broken and empty, realizing stuff can never satisfy them. Only the Christ can accomplish that within them. Only He has the words of everlasting life that are always being offered to His people. The Word is spoken in the quiet times of prayer, the reading and meditation of Scripture, time before the Blessed Sacrament, the celebration of the Mass and other sacraments. He speaks to us through a friend, perhaps even through a stranger. In patiently listening we can appreciate all that the Father has given us out of love through His Son. Then, maybe, just maybe, as His words penetrate our hearts and souls we might say to Him, “No one has ever said that to me before.”