Christmas greeting of the Bishop of Helsinki 2008
Time and again, I marvel at the treasures of the Christmas Gospel. I always find something fresh in it. Even familiar words begin to live anew.
Luke speaks of the child five times. First Mary was ”with child”; after his birth the child was wrapped in cloths; then the angels promised the shepherds: ”You will find a child”. And they did find him and could not wait to tell Mary and Joseph what ”had been told them about this child.”
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Christmas and children belong together. We are happy if we have the opportunity to celebrate Christmas in the company of children. As an old Finnish Christmas carol puts it, ”Even an old person feels young again, and plays like a child.” Our hearts are touched by children. The child in the manger is a part of our Christmas spirit.
With the Christ child, however, we go even deeper.
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The miracle of Christmas is found in God being born as a child. What is essential, rather than the sweetness of the child in the manger, is that this child is God’s own Son. God became human by being born as a child.
The Early Church rejected as heresy the interpretation in which God would have adopted Jesus as His Son only after he had grown to full manhood. Rationally, we would appreciate a wise Jesus, rather than a mere child. And yet the Church believed that at birth Jesus was both true man and true God. Everything was in the child.
In the Christmas Gospel the child in the manger was endowed with the names which to us are often expressions of Jesus’ later work. The child is the Saviour, the Christ, the Lord.
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A child is always both a task and a gift.
A child is a radical challenge to us adults. A child places into question all our adult values, the rat race, the hurry and the ever-accelerating lifestyle. While adult life is performance oriented, a child’s life is simply based on being. And what we adults think of children speaks reams about our values.
But a child is also a gift. Many parents know that children are not made but had, received. Grandparents understand what a gift grandchildren are. Everyone rejoices over children.
The Christ child is a gift from God—for you and for me. Within this child in the manger, the entire divine reality is present. God visits us as a child. When we think of the child in the manger and believe in Him, we receive everything that is good and secure. These things only God can give us.
The child is born unto us. Should we not rejoice!
Have a Joyous Christmas!