Have you seen those shows on TV where they take an old mess of a house and renovate everything to make it fresh, new, and valuable? It’s a great fantasy because everyone, if they had a big pot of money, would like to re-do their kitchen, or a bathroom, or finish their basement, or something. It’s because we just love that feeling when things are new, up-to-date, shiny, and fully functional. It’s like when we were kids and at the beginning of the school year we had that new box of crayons. Everything had a sharp point, your favorite blue or green wasn’t missing, and the black one wasn’t worn down to a raggedy little stub. Or it’s like that feeling of stepping into a brand new car and driving it off the lot for the first time. Everything works, everything is clean and new, and you just feel cool.
We human beings, we crave that kind of experience. We love a fresh start, a new beginning. And this is the joy of the coming mystery of Christmas, for Christmas is a renovation, a new beginning, and a fresh start. This renovation is so much greater than a new kitchen or a new bathroom; it is the renewal of us ourselves. Our very humanity is renovated because, on Christmas, God himself is born as one of us.
The spiritual joy of Christmas is that the birth of Christ is for us the beginning of a new creation, of a renovation of our humanity.
Recall the very beginning of the Sacred Scriptures, when God was creating the heavens and the earth. How did God create? It was a kind of self-expression: “God said, “let there be light,” and there was light.” It is by his word that God creates. He speaks, and it comes to be.
In the birth of Jesus Christ, this same Word, this same perfect self-expression of God takes on our humanity and becomes one of us. The same Word through which God made the world now becomes a human being. The result: we are re-created because Jesus Christ, in his divine humanity joins us to the utter joy and peace of God’s own life, giving us a chance to be freed from all our anxiety, all our depression, all our spiritual illness, and all of the misery we bring upon ourselves with our sins.
The coming birth of Christ is the renovation, the re-creation of the world. This is what the prophet Isaiah was hoping for when he wrote those beautiful words we just heard about the land itself rejoicing and the desert blooming with flowers. This is the new beginning that Jesus himself was pointing out when he asks us in the Gospel today, “what do you see and hear?” And he points out all the signs of world in the process of healing and renewal: the blind and deaf can see and hear again, the sick are healed and the dead are raised, and the poor hear good news.
As Isaiah proclaims, sorrow and mourning have been scared away, having been put to flight by the joy that is on its way: the child that will be born, who is, for us, the beginning of a new creation, a fresh start, a renovation of our hearts.