When people try to solve the problems of the world, they typically propose a new philosophy or “program.” The modern world has been full of “isms” and schemes. They have all failed to do all that they promised. Some “work” better than others because they take more accurate account of sin. Nonetheless, the fall of man, and the enduring flaw in the human condition that results from it, remains the problem that no idea or plan can solve.
The birth of the Son of God on Christmas is the beginning of the answer to our condition because he will solve the problem of sin. We need new people, not new philosophies or ideals, and Jesus Christ in the manger on Christmas is The New Man. He has God for his Father and the Blessed Virgin for his Mother. He is fully God—as he always has been; but now he is also fully human.
The word “human” is, for us, synonymous with words like “flawed” and “sinful.” We excuse our foibles and failures by saying, “We’re only human.” Christmas reveals this to be a false premise. For Jesus is human, but not flawed or sinful. In fact, our sins reveal that we are not yet fully human. We are only in the process of becoming by grace what Jesus is by nature.
Jesus is fully human. He will eat, drink and celebrate. He will fast, weep and mourn. He will experience pain and pleasure, joy and anger, disappointment and frustration. He will be popular, then rejected by all. He will suffer and die; and then he will rise from the dead—because he is God and God cannot be held by death. Easter is the inevitable result of Christmas.
But Jesus will never sin. He will never worship an idol or act in malice. He will never use another person to get something for himself. He will never gossip about others to make himself feel good. He will never ignore the will of God and the good of others in order to make a profit. He will never mistake lust for love. In the words of 1 Corinthians 13, Jesus will suffer long and be kind. He will not envy; he will not show off or behave rudely. He will not seek his own; He will not rejoice in iniquity, but will rejoice in the truth. Jesus will bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). In other words, Jesus will be fully human.
In our Christmas collect we ask God to “grant…that we, being regenerate, and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit” (BCP 96). Through the baptismal gift of the Spirit, our fallen humanity is renewed so that we can now be like him. We are no longer stuck in sub-human and beastly patterns of behavior. By grace we are sons and daughters of God.
However, grace is a gift that we must receive by faith—by continual prayer and trust in God—if we are to become in daily life what God has declared us to be in baptism. Therefore, as we begin to celebrate the twelve day feast of the Incarnation, let us set aside our doubts and fears and let us receive Christ into our hearts with new faith; let us be renewed by God’s Holy Spirit to become living members of the Body of Christ; let us be the incarnate presence of Jesus that changes our homes and families and the places where we work and play. Let us be new people who love in new ways. Let us be, not “only” human; let us be fully and genuinely human. As St. John writes, “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the children of God, even to them that believe on his name, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).