I usually feel a strong temptation to explain what the birth of Jesus means, how it is relevant today, why it is important for us here and now. Yet, as useful as I hope that kind of move is, it always seems to fall a little flat.
“The paradox of the Incarnation is best expressed in poetry.” Words to that effect were expressed once to me by the gone-too-soon late great Jesuit professor and author Edward Oakes, S.J. If a paradox is the unexpected coming together of two seemingly incongruous things, then God becoming a helpless baby is the paradox par excellence.
Maybe that’s why we love gazing at the figurines of the Nativity scene: it simply places the paradox of the God-baby before our eyes to delight, confound, and change us. The creche scene, with Jesus lying in a manger, is like poetry in visible form. It doesn’t explain the mystery of God becoming one of us. It shows you what it looks like, in all its humble form and vivid detail.
So, in addition to enjoying the Masses and preaching of Christmas, this year I’d like to invite you to check out a special Christmas Series we put together at Catholic Breakfast to help you keep your gaze on the Christmas paradox.
Along with some talented friends, we put together a special Christmas series of videos on the Incarnation, using poetic spoken word. Some are original pieces, some are better-known “covers.” But all have the same basic purpose: to poetically set before our hearts the strange and wonderful paradox of God becoming one of us, and to delight in the difference it makes, vividly detailed in the lives of real people.
We call the series “New Nazareths.” It consciously taken from another Jesuit, Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th century poet. It is from his amazing poem “The Virgin Mary Compared to the Air We Breathe.” It refers to God’s desire to extend the Incarnation—to make His dwelling—in the humble circumstances of our daily lives. I hope these pieces help you to rejoice in and experience this in your daily life in a deeper way.
To whet your appetite, but without spoiling the surprises: some of the pieces are done by married people (Ryan and Amy O’Connell; Geoff Stricklin—all Catholic Breakfast debuts!); others by priests (Frs. John Parks, Fernando Camou, and yours truly, all CB regulars.)
One piece provocatively weaves together the story of Mary into the drama of two people falling love in 21st century American culture.
Another explores the struggle and breakthrough of a young man as he reckons with his experience of feeling forgotten by God.
Another tells the tale of a teenager wrestling with what it means to be a man in power-hungry and consumer-driven America.
Another describes the courage of a mature person facing down serious obstacles in daily struggles.
And more. Each one is meant to explore human situations in light of the great paradox of God-become-man…which is always best done in poetry.
We’ll release the first one on Christmas Day, and then regularly through the following days of the Christmas season. I hope the New Nazareths Christmas series is a blessing to you this Christmas Season.
To you and to everyone whom we reach through the Catholic Breakfast apostolate: I pray that God blesses you with joy, true peace, and the love which has come to dwell among us.
—Fr John Muir