Christmas Changes Us
The most inconvenient and glorious fact of life is that its best parts drastically change us. The best example of this is love, in its many diverse forms, because it works this change on both the lover and the beloved.
Take marriage for an example. A man at his wedding is changed into a husband, and his love changes his beloved into a wife. Thus also with children. A mother not only goes through the physical experience of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth, but she is transformed by her love for her child, and thus becomes, in a very real sense, a mother, and her child will, for better and for worse, be a son or daughter through her gift of mothering. Even friendship works this way. I am changed by my love for my friends. I go from ”Andy”, to “Andy, friend of Nick”, and vice versa.
Of course, the greatest example of this altering love is that which we celebrate this season: the Word of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us. This season, we celebrate that God created love in this way and even applied it to himself. We revel in the mystery of an immutable God doing a new thing. We ponder what it means that he has become one of us, a human.
But we should also consider what this means for the definition of “human”. We, too, are changed by this radical act of love. We are clothed with a new dignity, because God walked the earth in flesh like ours, breathing our air, eating our food. C.S. Lewis famously said that we “never meet a mere mortal”, and this is true, but only half of the point. The devil is immortal too, but he obviously deserves no reverence. We, though, live in the same flesh as the creator of the world. We are really and truly created in his image, walking icons of the God who became flesh. We are transformed from animals cursed with responsibility and self-awareness to participants in a life like and with that of the creator.
This does not, of course, remove our responsibilities. Rather, they are tightened and intensified. This, too, holds true for all other forms of love. The married man is obliged by his love to keep his vows, to keep being changed. A priest can be a father in loving his spiritual children well, or else suffer the consequences of failing his calling from God. Love ought to fill us with the same holy terror one feels when holding an infant for the first time. If it does not dramatically change our lives, our love is not serious.
The next step, then, is to act on our love, as Christ did. In his love, he humbled himself and experienced humanity. Love demands that we act, and enter into the lives of those we are called to love (read: everyone with whom we come into contact) as a gift, so that they can experience and be called into this life-altering love. This will not be comfortable for us, just as Christ’s love was not comfortable for him (understatement), but that does not change our job.
St. Paul, in the chapter of Romans (13) which finally led to St. Augustine’s conversion, wrote that we ought to
“Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
So, dear reader, I will ask you to reflect with me on love. Are we challenged and changed by our love, for friends and family or for Flesh-Like-Christ-Havers at large, or are we comfortable, unchanged, and hidden away from the transformative power of true, Christlike love?
Know of our prayers for you all,
Andy Brandt is a Senior at Kansas State. You can find him writing about Catholicism, Politics, and Justice at https://medium.com/@