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Benedict XVI: From his Christmas homily
God has not only bent down, for as we read in the Psalms he has truly "come down," he has come into the world, he has become one of us, in order to draw all of us to himself. This child is truly Emmanuel, God-with-us. His kingdom truly stretches to the ends of the earth.
This child builds his kingdom in every generation from within, from the heart. But at the same time it is true that the "rod of his oppressor" is not yet broken, the boots of warriors continue to tramp and the "garment rolled in blood" (Is 9:4ff) still remains.
We are grateful that God gives himself into our hands as a child, begging as it were for our love, implanting his peace in our hearts. But this joy is also a prayer: Lord, make your promise come fully true. Break the rods of the oppressors. Burn the tramping boots.
"Mary gave birth to her first-born son" (Lk 2:7). In this sentence Saint Luke recounts quite soberly the great event to which the prophecies from Israel's history had pointed.
The early Church knew that in Jesus this saying had acquired a new depth, that the promises made to Israel were summed up in him. Thus the Letter to the Hebrews calls Jesus "the first-born," simply in order to designate him as the Son sent into the world by God (cf. 1:5-7) after the ground had been prepared by Old Testament prophecy.
In Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross this destiny of the first-born is fulfilled in a unique way. In his person he brings humanity before God and unites man with God in such a way that God becomes all in all.
Man can be the image of God because Jesus is both God and man, the true image of God and of man. Furthermore, as these letters tell us, he is the first-born from the dead. In the resurrection he has broken down the wall of death for all of us. He has opened up to man the dimension of eternal life in fellowship with God.
This new family of God begins at the moment when Mary wraps her first-born in swaddling clothes and lays him in a manger.
The above are extracts from Pope Benedict XVI's 2010 Christmas homily in St Peter's Basilica.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 24 No 11 (December 2011 - January 2012), p. 2
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