The frontlines of Earth, December 24th, 2023—
It is the coldest night, seemingly the darkest of the year. Nothing seems to have changed in an age out in this bomb-scarred wasteworld. It’s hard to measure the progress of this War that goes on and on with no end in sight; any little progress we make is met with equal or greater pushback. It’s a dreadful dance, so apparently futile, but we must hang on.
I feel the weight of earth so gravely tonight. I am sunk in it, peering out from my accustomed trench, my eyes at ground level, scanning for threats. I feel again the cold, ankle-deep trenchwater biting into my feet, the heaviness of my rifle even as it leans against the mud-walls of my earthbound world. I feel the burden of my own neediness, my inability to even keep myself warm, never mind do anything of worth as a soldier. If an enemy came over the edge of my trench, I feel like I wouldn’t even be able to run.
But this night isn’t like the others. Tonight is an important night for us fighters in the War on Humans, because tonight is Christmas. They said we would be home by Christmas; I never really believed that, because I don’t think they understood the nature of this War.
But never mind that. Tonight is the best night for us, because this night and the ensuing season constitute the great celebration of God becoming man. Contained within this Mystery is the entire reason for our driving belief in the ultimate value of the human person—the belief that fuels our fight to save humanity from the forces that would deconstruct and destroy it.
Tonight we humans are compelled to recollect ourselves, to look up from our muddy, bloody surroundings into, you might say, the night sky of eternal things. A great and unusual Star, not of this world, looks down on us tonight, reminding us that this War is one worth fighting, and difficult though it may be, we have no reason to give up or despair.
After all, this is the most hopeful war that was ever fought, and tonight hope comes to us in the most visible and human way. Tonight Hope dwells among us; not like the stars of this universe, beautiful but cold, untouchable, and totally removed; but as one of us, pulsing with life and blood, destined for toil and tears just like us, capable of being heartbroken, wounded, and maybe even killed, here on the war-torn battlefield of Earth.
He comes in no great chariot nor upon a mighty steed. Look, His mother and her spouse come from a distant land, across the lonely hilltops, alone, into the crowded streets of Bethlehem, as ordinary as all the others, lost in the crowd. No retinue follows them, and look! They find no room at the average human lodgings, they are going now to take the lowest place. Their dwelling will be a cold stable, their servants the working animals who wonder, perhaps, at these heavenly visitors to their lowly world.
Our Captain did not have to do it. He could have stayed in some distant headquarters, in an office where all He had to do was give His orders and it would be done. That is what so many human captains do. It’s what they are expected to do. He could have kept his distance from the mud and the blood like they do, but He did no such thing.
The Word, rather, became flesh and dwelt among us. He became—to the utter confounding of the powers of hell—a human, joining this War as one of us.
I’ve read things about why God had to become man to save us. But the reality is that He didn’t have to do anything. At the end of the most profound meditations on the Word Made Flesh, the deepest theological thoughts that we could ever formulate to explain how the Incarnation was necessary and was the most perfect way God could have saved us—at the end of it all, we still find ourselves falling on our knees, burdened with one overwhelming question:
Why would You do such a thing? It wasn’t just that You lived our life and died our death. You lived all of our lives—with all their miseries, sufferings, hardships, and deprivations—and died all our deaths, physical and spiritual.
You didn’t just love us. You loved us to the end. You loved us till it buried You. And if I can venture but a footsoldier’s uneducated guess as to why—why the extremity, why the excess, why so much—a few things come to my mind.
You wanted this salvation to be personal for me. It couldn’t be that way if You had remained apart from my sufferings and sins; only by taking my particular crosses could You be my Savior and not just the general forgiver of mankind’s amorphous debt.
Secondly, men are never drawn closer together than when they share a common burden—this is why those in earthly trenches become closer than brothers. You wanted to have that brotherhood with me, so You did it in the only way a simple soldier like me could understand. You came here and fought beside me, calling me not a servant but a friend. There is nothing I could ever suffer that You did not choose to bear—because You wanted to bear it with me.
Thirdly, You wanted to give the highest proof of Your love. Love gives everything that it can; it never gives in half-measures or mere sufficiencies. How could I ever doubt Your love, when there is no single thing You could have given that You did not? If You had withheld something of Yourself, would I wonder as I do at the utter expenditure of self You showed, the senseless excess of love? But You wanted me to wonder.
I seem to draw closer to the answer! Am I nearing the discovery of why? I inch towards the truth, but alas, here the logic fails again. None of it is necessary, I realize again, because my love isn’t necessary. Only Your life and Your love are necessary, and You had it all in infinite abundance, among the Three Persons of Yourself, from all eternity. Men were not necessary. I was not necessary.
So the answer eludes me again, it escapes into the infinite night above and around me, higher and farther than my eyes and mind can reach. Let it be so—let Your mystery remain, even as You come to us with a human face, in a human way, in the arms of Your human Mother. Your divinity holds me spellbound while Your humanity—visible at last to me tonight—calls me to You.
Fellow-soldiers in this great War, let us respond to this call. Let us rise from the trenches. Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, that the Lord has made known to us.
It is true that this War allows for no Christmas Truce. We cannot find common ground with the dark forces for whom Christmas is a terror and a threat. But somehow it seems that the Enemy will not harm us in the sacred journey from the battlefield to Bethlehem; even he cannot touch us there; even he seems to keep his distance as God calls all His faithful—be they angels, shepherds, soldiers, or kings—to come and adore the Word Made Flesh.
Here is a Mystery that draws all argument to a close. We can discuss and write to no end on the value of humans, I can publish as many articles as I choose on this War, I can talk as much as I want, but none of it speaks as loudly as the sight of God Himself, Who was and Who is and Who ever shall be, veiled in a human, mortal infant’s flesh, lying silent and sleeping in a manger.
You know, maybe they weren’t so wrong when they said we’d be home by Christmas. After all, the tides have irreversibly turned tonight. Yonder breaks a new and glorious morn, and home has never felt so near.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Good Catholic!