"O happy fault that merited such and so great a Redeemer."
While this quotation is part of the Easter Vigil Exsultet, it was one of the first things I thought about after the clock passed midnight and the day became Christmas. Earlier, I wrote about this year's Lent--filled with impatience and yearning for Easter--and how it shares that feeling of anticipation with Advent leading to Christmas. In the same way, Felix culpa not only causes me to meditate on Christ's Crucifixion, but also reminds me of the Incarnation.
I am continually pleasantly surprised by the parallels between the birth and death of Jesus Christ. He was laid in a manger in the stable; He would later be bound to wood at death. He was brought fine perfumes by the wise men; these perfumes would be used for His funeral cloths. Our Lord suffered and died for our sin, but could do so only because He humbled Himself to be born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a beautiful cycle which makes me want to celebrate the liturgical year properly all the more.
"Oh happy fault that merited such and so great a redeemer." It is easy (in that the evidence is apparent) to look at the Crucifix above the altar and say, "This is how He loves us." However, the Incarnation seems less obvious. Perhaps we have become a bit desensitized to the Truth. The Nativity scene is as memorized as the Goldilocks and the Three Bears tale, yet if we really acknowledged the reality behind this Child, we would fall to our knees. He is not merely a child, but also God. He comes to us, not grandly announced or on a red carpet, but proclaimed to few and basically in a barn (as a Midwest girl, this application makes the story of Jesus' birth even more incomprehensible: He could have been born less than a few miles away from me surrounded by livestock and soybeans. That just sounds crazy to think, doesn't it?).
What kind of King chooses to enter the world in this way? What kind of King allows Himself to join our weary world, being denied by those who can help Him, in the poorest of conditions? The answer: a King who has come to redeem us. He comes to us vulnerable and in humble conditions because He understands. His mission isn't just to tell us that He is worthy of worship (which He does receive at His birth); His mission is to make us holy, to save us in the time and place that we are.
So He meets us in the simplest and purest way as a child. I am reminded of Pope Benedict XVI's Midnight Mass Homily of 2006:
"He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practice with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him."
Our Lord presents Himself to us in the most beautiful way, completely out of love for us. Over the next 12 days of Christmas, let us come to the Infant Jesus in the Nativity, not with a fleeting, "How cute," but in reverence for the great work He accomplishes by entering the world in the way He does.
"Come, let us adore him!"