The readings of the Christmas season reveal to us the Person of Jesus, the Word made flesh, God made man, all divine and yet all human. In our Epistle reading, St. Paul tells us that the grace of God has appeared to us, our great God and our Savior Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us. The Christ Child born in the Bethlehem of time is the Self-Same eternal Son of God.And what was hidden, in the plan of salvation from all time, has now become visible in Him, and that plan appears in this Christmas Season in the events of the infant Savior’s life, as He enters more and more completely into the human condition, save sin, which He nevertheless came to redeem.
In the rite of circumcision, in the Gospel today, according to the covenant with Abraham, the Lord receives His name. In the Israel of those days, a child’s name was descriptive, referring to his circumstances or his destiny in life. At this rite, the Lord is given the name, Jesus, the name the angel revealed to Joseph in the dream whereby He was to take the Virgin Mary as his wife. “Because He will save His people from their sins.” His name means “Savior.” And in this rite, Jesus sheds His first blood as a portent of His saving sacrifice.
Of utmost importance, this was the rite of initiation into the people of God for male children, and so, in this rite, Jesus became a member of the people Israel. It is a great moment: when the fulfillment of the promise of salvation, which God made to Abraham, entered the people who held that promise, so that it would all come to pass.
Remember that the covenant with Abraham was a covenant based on faith, the first beginnings of the plan of salvation, and predates the covenant with Moses, which was based on the law. And so Jesus, in this rite, brings forward faith as the disposition for justification in the New Covenant in Him. As St. Paul reminds us, we are saved by faith, not by the law. Faith is a way of seeing what we cannot see with our natural eyes. And so in a wonderful tribute to the faith of Abraham, St. Paul says that he, Abraham, saw from afar Jesus, the fulfillment of his act of faith in God’s promise.
God’s plan of salvation unfolds in Christ. Faith and baptism is the rite of initiation for us into the new covenant established by Christ. By this rite, we are incorporated into Christ and into the Church. We become members of Christ. What happens to Him, then, in His cross and resurrection, happens to us. We receive new life and the promise of salvation. We are the new Israel, the new people of God. As St. Paul says in the Epistle reading, God is preparing in us a people redeemed, cleansed to Himself, acceptable, a pursuer of good works. Christ has not abolished the law, but fulfilled it. We live, by faith, guided by the Holy Ghost, awaiting the blessed hope and coming of the reign of God in its fullness.
Jesus says the reign of God is within us. What Abraham saw from afar by faith, we have now seen in time, the appearance of the Savior. And it is by faith that we see Him even now among us and in our very lives, so completely has Christ, the Son of God and son of Mary, entered into humanity.