Summary: To make life possible, man needs a face more than goals. God becomes man in order to give us His face.
Today we celebrate Christmas. And today’s gospel, John 1.1-18, tells us that the Word of God is the Word of life. This Word is the Light of life. The Word of God lights up for us the way we must live. The outline of the right way of living lies in this Word. This Word, this Light, fashions the proper human life and the right human world. All those who accept this Word receive a second birth, not from flesh and blood, but from God. That is the summary of the story of a divine initiative and the human response to it either in rejection or in acceptance.
The Word of God fashions a new life, a new world. We hear, read, write and speak everyday lots of words. Often we speak less through words and more through our actions. Have we ever reflected what our words and actions contain and what they convey to our fellowhumans and the world around us? The possibility of our words and actions to carry the light and salvation of life to the world depends on their content.
Once a man was begging in front of a house where a very poor family lived. The house wife opened the door. She saw the beggar, but she had nothing to give him. The beggar could not believe that. He waited for a while and rang the bell again since he was very hungry and since there were no more houses nearby. The lady was angry, because in the first place she had nothing to give and in the second place the man did not believe her. She threw on him the dirty mopping cloth with which she had been cleaning the kitchen. The man picked up the cloth, washed it in the nearby river, made some wicks out of it, borrowed some oil and, to the surprise of this woman who illtreated him, lit a lamp in the evening in front of her house.
That is the type of behaviour that contains the light of God and that carries the light of God to the people and world around us. The incarnation of God – the Christmas that we celebrate today – is His effort to show us and teach us this type of behaviour. By becoming man, God wanted to give us a new face. The writer Elias Canetti writes: “To make life possible, man needs a face more than his goals.” The face here is a metaphor for the face of life, the visible expressions of our life. That is our behaviour and our relationship with our neighbours. Our fellowhumans do not understand and judge us by our physical beauty or by the charm of our movements. They understand, judge and relate to us on the basis of our behaviour, on the basis of the face that we have built up in relation to them.
Few of us visited last week a Christmas market in the french city, Colmar. Lots of people had gathered there to shop for Christmas. Different types of wine, schnapps and many curiosities were on display. In the midst of it all was also a small beautiful crib. All were intensely involved in shopping. Hardly anyone noticed the crib and the presence of baby Jesus in it. The contrast reveals what takes place in the heart of today’s Christian. The external preparations which have two sides – business on the side of the market and material celebration on the side of the customers – outweigh the internal preparations. A believer reduces himself into a customer, who works hard to earn money, and in the process loses his grip on life. This shift of attention from God to oneself reflects probably the real face of the human.