Whose birthday is December 25th? The Lord Jesus! Also: Isaac Newton, Clara Barton, Humphrey Bogart, Rod Serling, Cab Calloway, Anwar Sadat, Karl Rove, Annie Lennox, and Jimmy Buffet, to name a few.
Before all the ages, in the bosom of eternity, the Son of God was, is, and ever will be born of the Father in the Holy Spirit, the undivided Trinity. Today, the Son of God was born a man, a human being, a human child.
Christ’s birth gives every birth meaning. God’s coming into the world as one of us reveals the divine love which moves the heavens and the earth. We call the mystery of God’s becoming man the… Incarnation. Today the Incarnation occurred.
No, wait! That’s inaccurate. And when priests fall into inaccuracies, Santa justly withholds their presents.
God was born a child on Christmas Day, in Bethlehem. But the Incarnation occurred not on December 25th, but on… let’s see: Math. Nine months… March 25th! The Incarnation occurred when the baby Jesus was conceived. Christmas celebrates the beautiful and successful birth of a divine child Who had been human, alive, and growing for nine months.
Now, we of course want to celebrate Christmas in spirit and in truth. And we might as well celebrate Humphrey Bogart’s, and Clara Barton’s, and Annie Lennox’s birthdays in spirit and in truth, too. That means celebrating the Gospel of Life. Christmas is the feast day of the Gospel of Life. We celebrate Jesus’ birthday, and everybody’s birthday, with holy joy—because we are pro-life.
What does this mean? Well, what does Jesus’ birth teach us? It teaches us that, when a child gets conceived in a woman’s womb, God acts. God reveals a plan, a grand plan that only He fully knows. A child, conceived and growing; a mother selflessly, naturally lavishing her as-yet-unborn child with everything, through the ineffably intimate relationship of the womb—something so complex and amazing that our little human minds cannot comprehend it all: God acts in this process with such a surpassing demonstration of His powerful loving care, that all we can do is revere this holiness with awe and dedicated service.
Who gave us the inspiring phrase “Gospel of Life?” Let me give you a hint. He began a letter he wrote to the whole world with this phrase, “Gospel of Life, Evangelium Vitae.” He had already defined the world-wide pro-life movement by his courageous leadership. In his encyclical letter, he laid out the Biblical and philosophical foundations of the pro-life movement. He explained how the movement actually began way before Roe v. Wade. The pro-life movement began with creation itself, and with God’s reaction after the Fall of Man, when He answered human violence with gentle compassion. The man who gave us the phrase “Gospel of Life,” the undisputed hero of the pro-life movement; from heaven he guides us and aids us still: Pope St. John Paul II.
Someday historians will look back and take stock of the 20th century, and the 21st, and they will recognize the enormous moral significance of Pope John Paul’s pro-life movement. With the benefit of some perspective, free from the fever of our contemporary political alliances, our children and grandchildren will look back and see the destruction that the culture of death did during our times. All the unnecessary pain and suffering for mothers and fathers, doctors and nurses, whole families; indeed, whole communities. Succeeding generations will look back and see clearly how the culture of death gave rise to terrible economic problems, to hopelessness and guilt on a grand scale, to a spiritual malaise throughout the Western world.
That’s for future generations to assess fully. Right now, though, we already know the basic answer. We fight the culture of death by rejoicing in the birth of the Son of God, and in every human birth. We fight back by taking our place near the manger, where the pro-life Church gazes with love at the divine mystery of conception, pregnancy, and birth.
When we take our place here, celebrating Christmas, we have no choice but to stand up for all innocent and defenseless unborn babies, and for all those who love them: their mothers, fathers, grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles.
Because, when we find ourselves next to the newborn babe in the manger, we clearly perceive that violence has no place here, in this sublime mystery of conception, pregnancy, and birth. As the prophet Isaiah put it, declaring the Gospel of Life: “Every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for flames, because the Prince of Peace has a vast dominion, which is forever peaceful.” The cruel violence of abortion is completely foreign to the peace of God’s kingdom. Visiting Bethlehem spiritually cements this truth into our minds.
Now, don’t accuse me of bringing politics into Christmas Eve. Our Catholic adherence to the Gospel of Life runs much deeper than any political affiliations we have. But, of course, being pro-life has political implications. We rejoice in the victories won this past Election Day by candidates with a pro-life message.
These victories mean that we have to pray all the harder and remain all the more vigilant for opportunities to participate in building up the culture of life. May the year to come see us living out in practice, day in and day out, the spiritual worship that we take part in at Christmas, beside the holy manger of the newborn Son of God. May He give us the strength and clarity we need to live 2017 as truly pro-life Christians.