To understand the Christian story, it is helpful to recognise the difference between what’s true about it and what’s real.  What’s true speaks to the mind; what’s real connects with everyday experience.  The Christmas story consists of the blending of material from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew tells us about the wise men, but Luke doesn’t. There are shepherds in Luke, but not in Matthew. Both Gospels focus on the birth of Jesus and introduce others individuals, such as Mary, Joseph and Elizabeth, who are major characters in the story. The Christmas story is about real people – betrothals, unexpected pregnancies and the birth of a baby.

The Gospel of John has no Christmas story, as such, but helps us understand the cosmic significance of the Incarnation. John begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ And then goes on to announce, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us and we have seen his glory, the glory of a Father’s only  Son”. How impoverished we would be without the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and John. Each one gives us unique details and insights into the story of that first Christmas.

In all the Gospels, no matter how they were written, an enormous claim is made. The centrepiece of the Incarnation, and the claim of the Incarnation is that what’s true has become real – as real as human flesh and blood, as real as human feelings of joy and gladness, disappointment and sorrow. The totally transcendent God has become one with us in our human experiences. The eternal Word has entered time, has stepped on to the stage of history and become one of us.

What has always been true has come within our reach. In Bethlehem’s baby, divine truth has become human reality. This is the magnificent claim of the Christmas story – behind all the lights and baubles and babble of the world’s celebration of Christmas lies the ever ancient and ever new story of how God became real in the human arena where you and I live and die.

Here’s the crunch question: Have you and I been drawn into this most remarkable story to the extent that not only is it true for us, but it is also REAL?

Paschal Kearney CSSp

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