While this isn't the first Christmas in which I've actually believed in the Incarnation, it is close.
It is too much. There is no way to understand it; no way to comprehend it; there is only a deep mystery that can be accessed through communion.
In the midst of the joy and thanksgiving of this day, I was reminded of the violence that continues to plague our world -- that continues to contradict the Incarnation by its very existence; that snubs its nose at its Lord's creatures; that can only seek more of itself, although the more it seeks the less it can have -- it, in the end, can have nothing for it produces nothings, loves nothing, honors nothing, venerates nothing. I think of those Catholics bombed in Nigeria today while attending Mass. I think of Christians around the Middle East who have been persecuted by others or displaced by occupying foreign armies.
To end violence in the world, we must first end violence in ourselves.
This will not, of course, guarantee our own freedom from violence -- the example of our Lord shows that such is the opposite of the case -- but it does guarantee that we will not increase violence and oppression, nor will we violate our neighbors.
The truly free man is the one who gives his neighbor freedom.
We cannot decree Muslim extremism unless we are willing to decry American imperialism or Christian colonialism.
"But they started it...!"
And as my dad would say, "So what? You finish it."
There can be no end of violence unless we are put to death in Christ.
Here is one of the mysteries of the Incarnation: he became what we are so that we might become what he is. The Incarnation, the taking on of Adamic flesh and redeeming it, necessarily ends in the Crucifixion. Not only was his coming an assault on the kingdom of darkness, but an assault on our willed complicity: here is a human will completely in subjection to the divine will -- we shall kill it. We have not, nor have we ever, wanted to be in subjection to God's will, even though it is freedom. We have wanted self-actualization, individual freedom, or whatever slogan we comfort ourselves with. And so we will kill the Son of God, or any son of God, to maintain it. To truly live we must join Christ on the cross. For then we have new birth -- a birth into a harder existence: but freedom is hard. It will take much work to become that which Christ is making us, but he continues to be the main actor; we are his workmanship. But we must walk. This is why the virgin birth, baptism, and the cross are so closely connected: they all say, "he became what we are so that we might become what he is". We must be born of the Virgin, the Church; we must descend into the Jordan, taking up the name and cause of sinners; we must be crucified and raised for the sake of the world.
If we are to live, to truly live, we must partake of Christ, which requires our death.
To end violence in the world, we must end violence in ourselves.