What child is this? This child born this morning, born to no acclaim, born in a dwelling meant for cattle, what is he? Ignored by the world but acclaimed by the angels, who is he?
As the classic Christmas carol tells us, “This, this is Christ the King.” Our King, our Messiah, our Emmanuel is born today, in the place where ox and donkey feed. And yet already this silent Word, the Word made flesh who cannot yet speak, pleads for us sinners to his Father. Christ, from the moment of his birth, had one purpose—to redeem us and offer us salvation. Even in his infancy, in his dependence upon Mary and Joseph for his nourishment and nurturing, he is silently undertaking this work of redemption, which will be completed upon the cross. He comes into this world destined for the cross, the cross of victory which “he bore for me, for you.” This King of kings comes to bring salvation, salvation which comes through the cross.
As this famous carol implores us, “Let loving hearts enthrone him.” For, St. John tells us, “to those who did accept him he gave the power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). By enthroning the Christ child in our hearts, by accepting him in our lives, he gives us the power to become like him, sons and daughters of God the Father. This is the love our Father has given us, “that we should be called children of God” (1 Jn 3:1). We are God’s children now, because today the love which makes us so is born.
We meet Christ today in all humility and lowliness. A small child born in a lowly manger, yet destined for the salvation of the world. In meeting him with joy and welcoming him into our hearts and homes, we share in his sonship. We receive our share of the salvation he offers, the salvation which he was born to give us.
Image: Gerard van Honthorst, Adoration of the Shepherds