Being at the “margin” of the manger?

For the Christian tradition, Christmas reminds us of the birth of Jesus, who is confessed in the Creed as “the only begotten Son of God.”

But the ongoing celebration of Christmas – year by year –also reminds us that the understanding of what we profess in the Creed is not yet complete.

The poet Pablo Neruda once wrote: “Being born is not enough. To be born again every day, we are born”. Being born for Jesus is not enough. To be born again every day and for every single creature, that is what is meant when we proclaim: “A child is born to us”.

If the Son of God is not going to be born in us, in our soul – and not only in the flesh in Bethlehem or Nazareth – in vain and null would the Son of God be laid in the manger.

But after centuries we have been repeating the Creed, we are still far away from the manger where Jesus has been laid. We are still at the margin of the manger. Being “one with the Father” or as the Creed says “consubstantial” is not something to be considered an exception or exclusivity, but as a gift God shares with all of us. Not only a child, a son has been born to us or for us, but most essentially “in us.

Recognizing that Jesus is “the only son of God,” consubstantial of the Father, does not make this Jesus an exception, and outsider of the created order we live in, thus leaving us off from the mystery, at the margin of the manger.

Christmas reminds us that we too are children of God “begotten” from eternity in the same way it is said of Jesus of Nazareth. We all are sons of God. No less God than Jesus.

We are not at the margin of God’s divinity. We are laid in God’s divine manger. Paul reminds the church in Galatia that the same Spirit of Jesus is sent into our hearts to cry out “Abba, Father!”. And Paul consequently says: “So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then also an heir, through God.” (Gal 4:5).

All the so-called Christian “mysteries” proclaim this essential truth. Christmas is the celebration of who we are: we are the unborn, the only begotten son of God, true God from true God. As the prologue of John clearly states: “We are granted the power to become children of God, we who are born not from blood or human desire or human will, but from God.” (Jo 1:13)

Unfortunately, a narrow-minded understanding of the Trinitarian doctrine has “blocked” this amazing Good News and has laid us off from the Father’s bosom, at the margin of the manger.

We came to believe that Jesus’ divine sonship (according to God’s nature) is something “exclusive” to him, as if this divine consubstantiality, being one with God, being in the form of God, being equal with God, is something reserved only to Godself, a thing to be grasped, and not to be shared. But God’s very essence is “grace.”  God’s very being is “being-with-us.”

Not only the crumbs that fall off the manger have been given to us, as if we were inserted into the Crèche setting but set aside as God’s adopted children.

We are sons of God, God’s “begotten” sons and daughters of God. In ancient Rome, we should be reminded that the “adopted” child is not less but more than being the “natural” or “biological” child. According to the Roman understanding of adoption, the true heir of the family was not the “natural” son or born “by blood”, but the one the paterfamilias, for example the emperor was choosing as His heir. “Being a son” means therefore “being heir” – as Paul says in the letter we have heard – “if a son then also an heir, through God,” and not by blood. 

We are “children/sons of God,” since we share the same divine nature as Jesus does. The traditional distinction between “natural” son of God – Jesus – and “adopted” sons of God, being by “grace,” is missing the true point and the core of the Good News of the Gospel.

God is “grace.” If God by nature is grace, it follows that to be children of God by “one” with God. Being born not by blood but through God.

In his address to the Roman Curia, on Dec 22, Pope Francis has warned against “crystallizing the message of Jesus in a single, perennially valid form. Instead, its form must be capable of constantly changing, so that its substance can remain constantly the same.

True heresy consists not only in preaching another gospel (cf. Gal 1:9), as Saint Paul told us, but also in ceasing to translate its message into today’s languages and ways of thinking, which is precisely what the Apostle of the Gentiles did. To preserve means to keep alive and not to imprison the message of Christ.”

This is the Good News of Christmas. We are not at the “margin” of the “manger.” Our heart is the manger where the son of God is laid so that He may continuously be born in us. The best way to deepen this truth, in life, intelligence and in the church, is to imitate Mary who “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” In her flesh, Mary conceived Jesus after nine months. In her heart, Mary gave birth to the Son of God for all her life.


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