By Fr. Joseph Tetlow, SJ
We imagine God looking down on a miserable earth needing redemption. That’s in the Spiritual Exercises. At Christmas, we do better to imagine God looking down as in the Contemplatio ad Amor. God looks at His creation and saw it was good — God liked what He saw — especially humankind, created in our image, in our own likeness. Now God is asking, “What more can we give them? What more?” Then the unimaginable: Let’s give them Ourselves! [Sp.Ex.234]
So, on Christmas night, the Father is delighted that the fullness of time has come, and the Son is born in our flesh. It’s as though the sun were to come down and be the earth, so light now shines from within the earth itself. That’s how humankind is now: the Son makes us shine from within ourselves.
There’s more to the Father’s happiness at the Incarnation. To begin with, surely the Father was pleased that the woman who agreed to bear the Son should be what we were all meant to be: truly and entirely holy. And the Father was happy that the Son will be embraced by a deeply upright man, quiet and strong, who does what the angels tell him.
The Father wants the Son to be the shepherd of God’s people, so is pleased when His infant Son is tickled by the shaggy shepherds and their sheep. And if the Father rejoices over one sinner who repents, imagine how the Father rejoiced over three kings who humbled themselves and let a star teach them whom to come worship.
This little Jesus — the Father feels confident — will be powerful to do the works the Father gave Him to do. As it will turn out, He loves being in our flesh. He won’t let us drive Him out of it. But at Christmas, we imagine that the Father has to be entertained that the One destined to change the course of human history has to have His diaper changed.
We’re not sure it’s proper to be amused at this. We can be sure to be amazed that God chooses the weak to confound the strong. But no one imagined that choosing the weak meant being one of them. Who is weaker than a cold and hungry infant? And the Father loves the Son, wrapped by His faithful father in swaddling clothes.
Because of this infant, the Father can begin joyfully gathering in His adopted children. He has loved those He knew beforehand were destined to be created in the pattern of His son. Now His Son will show them how to say their YES!
Here’s the deepest joy of Christmas: the Father decreed that we are as we are because He was as He was — He, Jesus, radiating divinity. And the Father is delighted that it has now begun.
So, it turns out that Christmas joy does not reach up from earth to the heavens, as in O Come All Ye Faithful.
Christmas joy starts in the heavens in the Father’s heart, as in Angels We Have Heard on High.
It’s something to keep in mind, turning the lights on in the crib.