In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
On this Christmas Day, as every year, we listened to the majestic hymn dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Word of God incarnate, with which the Gospel of John begins (Jn 1:1-18). From all eternity the “Word” has existed, which is the beginning and the raison d’être of all that exists: “In the beginning was the Word” (Jn 1:1). Through this Word everything was created: “All things were made through him, and without him nothing came into existence” (Jn 1:3). The entire universe is the fruit and reflection of the eternal Word of God: everything bears his imprint and his presence is enclosed in all things.
The climax of today’s Gospel is the famous phrase that is at the heart of our faith: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).
The term “flesh” indicates the transience and weakness of every human being. In an infinite ecstasy of love, the eternal word of God was born among us, assuming the humility of our human condition. He was born as a small and needy child in Bethlehem. The Word became fragile and mortal. He appeared in the world with a face, a heart and a history like our own. The distance between God and human beings has disappeared.
The eternal Word who created heaven and earth, the Word who for centuries was preached by the prophets and read every Sabbath in the Law of Moses, entered our history as a human being like all others. What is proper to every human being, being “flesh”, that is to say, fragile, weak and mortal, we can now affirm about the eternal and divine Word. The Word incarnate is Jesus Christ.
In his humanity God wanted to reveal to us all his love; he has become infinitely close to us. God has fallen in love with humanity, even with all its history of violence and baseness, in spite of its idolatry and wickedness.
God has fallen in love with you, with me, with each one of us. Our littleness does not scandalize him; our rebelliousness does not alienate him. He loves each one of us as we are and he invites us to welcome him without fear—he only asks us to trust him. He came to be our brother and to fill our lives with happiness and meaning.
“He loves each one of us as we are and he invites us to welcome him without fear—he only asks us to trust him.” -Bishop Silvio J. Báez, o.c.d. #ChristmasTweet
The Word became flesh, coming to us without privilege or advantage, without boasting of greatness or making much noise. He wanted to come into the world as all human beings come. He was born fragile like us in order to understand us and be at our side in our suffering to console us and communicate his very life to us. He was born full of tenderness to make us understand that he didn’t come to judge us but to give us his forgiveness and free us from all our slavery. He was born as a human being to teach us, as well, to welcome every human being as a brother to love—not as a rival or enemy to defeat and subdue.
“The eternal Word was born as a child who doesn’t know how to speak in order to teach us that when God seems to be silent, it’s because he is speaking to us in another way.” -Bishop Silvio J. Báez, o.c.d. #ChristmasTweet
He was born to fill the night with light so that we wouldn’t be discouraged in the face of difficulties and failures. He wanted to communicate to us the hope that no night in this world is forever. Let’s not despair.
The eternal Word revealed himself in the littleness of the Child of Bethlehem to invite us to discover and appreciate the little things of every day: a small gesture of kindness, a smile, a word of encouragement, a humble sacrifice—these are all privileged ways by which God continues to reach us. Therefore, also at the social level, efforts to build a better world, however small they may be, will never be in vain, because everything that is done in favor of the dignity of human beings opens paths to God.
The eternal Word was born poor to help us reconcile ourselves with our own poverty.
To live is to accept one’s own littleness with serenity and simplicity, with the confidence of being loved and sustained by God, without ever despairing. It’s ridiculous to pretend to be omnipotent. We don’t know and can’t do everything.
However, we can be sure that the light of the Word, “which enlightens every man who comes into this world” (Jn 1:9), won’t leave us in ignorance, but will always accompany us in our search for truth and love.
The eternal Word was born poor in order to show us God’s love for the poor and to teach us to welcome Him in the least, in those who mourn, or live in solitude; in those who are deprived of freedom or whose dignity is trampled upon. Let’s not despise or ignore God by despising and ignoring the poor.
Since God became man, everything human has become sacred and divine. By ignoring or excluding the human being, we can never welcome or know God. When we are not respectful of human dignity, we trample God underfoot. When we make power and money into idols that enslave and demand human sacrifice, we profane the holy name of God who became man. Therefore, it’s absurd and inhumane that political ruthlessness should ever prevail, the exploitation of the weakest and the cruelty that multiplies the number of victims.
“The Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14). Our God is human and has revealed himself to be human. For this reason, our faith imposes on us the need to become more and more human and respectful of the dignity of persons. Only in this way will we become more and more like the living God who has willed to share our human condition.
When God is born human like us, no one should feel alone or without a future, no one is abandoned and without strength. Since God was born human among us, no human failure is definitive, no mistake is irreparable. God has come to open the future to us and give us strength and hope.
With the human birth of God everything is reborn. Fear becomes a courage that is humble, as well as a path of fraternity; failure means a new beginning; sickness becomes patience to let oneself be cared for; and, sin becomes an occasion to welcome divine mercy. With the human birth of God, sadness is fleeting, old age becomes fruitful, and death is a seed that germinates to develop into a life without end.
The incarnation of the eternal Word of God in a human being also opens the way to fellowship.
We are all brothers and sisters in our fragile humanity: the sinners whom we condemn, the weak whom we would like to exclude, the elderly whom we consider useless, even the migrants who bother us.
God was born and came for everyone. Let us learn to love one another. The Word made flesh has generated a new human grammar and syntax. Let us learn the new language that springs from the birth of God in Bethlehem. Let us learn to say: “I’m sorry”, “thank you”, “I love you”, “can I help you with anything”.
“The Word made flesh has generated a new human grammar and syntax. Let us learn the new language that springs from the birth of God in Bethlehem.” -Bishop Silvio J. Báez, o.c.d. #ChristmasTweet
The Gospel concludes by saying that “the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). God is the eternal pilgrim of love who always has been in search of a place to dwell (cf. Prov 8:30-31; Sir 24:1-8).
The privileged place of the divine presence is no longer the tent that accompanied Israel in the desert (Ex 33:7-10; 40:35), nor the great temple of Jerusalem (1 Kings 8:10), but the humble historical existence of Jesus in his life, death and resurrection. The loving exodus of the Word finally came to an end. Jesus of Nazareth is the tent that God has placed in history as his dwelling and he has chosen to abide there.
Therefore, let’s go to Bethlehem and adore with loving wonder God’s great gift to humanity and to each one of us. Let’s make a loving pilgrimage with our hearts and go joyfully to the manger to welcome Jesus, “the Word made flesh”.
Contemplating the Child of Bethlehem, we will discover that we are loved. With Jesus we will never be alone and we will become so profoundly human that one day we will share with him his divine self (cf. 1 Jn 3:1-2).
Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, Christmas 2021
Translation from the Spanish text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.