Ordinary people not unlike you and me came to experience something in the living person of Jesus, something in who he was, in what he said and did, in how he lived and died, that was like the opening of a door to faith in him as the Son of God, the incarnate divine Wisdom or Word who was with God from the beginning, through whom all things were made.
The “Light that shines in the darkness” first shone in the person of Jesus—in his birth, life, death, and presence in the community of believers today. Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the angels from on high, saw something of this light and life in the baby whose birth we celebrate.
As we celebrate Christmas, we are drawn to a newborn baby in whom we experience the face and heart of God our Father. We do not have to reach to something infinitely beyond ourselves, but only embrace Someone who gives himself to us, even as a baby. Ultimately, it is our experience of Jesus Christ, a person born in human flesh who “pitched his tent among us,” that precedes our faith in him as the Son of God and revelation of the Father.
St. Augustine was convinced that we cannot really know something if we do not first love it. Karl Rahner echoed him when he wrote:
Only the heart knows in the full sense of the word. Really interior knowledge, knowledge that grasps something completely and is more than a list of facts, is knowledge of the heart, of the human center, which knows by experience and by suffering – the human center where spirit and body, light and love dwell undivided in one chasm. In the final analysis, knowledge is but the radiance of love…
And now God says to us what God has already said to the earth as a whole through his grace-filled birth: “I am there. I am with you. I am your life. I am your time. I am the gloom of your daily routine . . . I am your joy. Do not be afraid to be happy; ever since I wept, joy is the standard of living that is really more suitable than the anxiety and grief of those who think they have no hope . . . I am present in your needs. I have suffered them and they are now transformed but not obliterated from my heart. This reality—incomprehensible wonder of my almighty love—I have sheltered safely and completely in the cold stable of your world. I am there. Even if you do not see me now, I am there. It is Christmas. Light the candles. They have more right to exist than all the darkness.
Drawing by Jerome Quigley. Excerpts from a Christmas homily by Father Dominic.