Who is Jesus?  A Brief Look at the Incarnation

By: William Hemsworth

In sacred scripture, we read that man was created he had a perfect relationship with God.  Man is the pinnacle of creation. God gave man everything.

In return the Lord asked man not to each of one tree in the garden. Man did not listen, rebelled, and had to face the consequences of sin for the first time. 

The sin of our first parents also applies to us.  We all have sinned, and the penalty for that sin is death.  Saint Paul had the same opinion in Romans 6:23 which states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.  However, the second person of the blessed Trinity, Jesus himself became incarnate to atone and redeem us from our sin.

Incarnation—Bridge from us to God

The Incarnation was needed because we could not atone for our sin on our own.  Only someone who was perfect, and without sin could do that.  As I write this it is the final days of Advent.  

The time of preparation for the birth of Christ is soon coming to an end.  Soon we will be celebrating his glorious birth.  The second person of the Trinity loving us so much that He became man.  He lived as we did with hunger, fear, betrayal, and even death.  

Cross as the New Tree of Life

Hebrews 4:15 sums this idea up perfectly when the inspired author writes, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.”  

This far we have seen that Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses, but this doesn’t completely answer who he is.  Who He is the ultimate gift that we experience this time of year.  

Identity of Jesus

So who is Jesus?  This question goes back to some of the greatest controversies in the early church.  

There were some, such as the Arians, who tried to explain Jesus as being the first thing created.  The problem here is that Jesus, as the second person of the Blessed Trinity, has always existed.  There are many verses that show this and John 1:1 is one example.  That passage of scripture states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

He always was, yet he took the form of a man, and was born in the humblest of conditions.  In our society we have been conditioned to view the manger scene in a very sanitized way.  That manger that the divine Son of God was laid in after his birth was a food trough used for livestock!  

The creator of the universe became a man because he wants us to live.  His love for us is that immense.  In the letter to the Philippians St. Paul writes, “Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found human in appearance he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

Fully Man and Fully God

While on Earth he did not appear as a man, nor was He a spirit that possessed man until the point of the crucifixion as the Docetists and Gnostics would say.  From the time of His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary he was both fully God and fully man.  This was stated by many church fathers, declared at the Council of Nicea, and at the Council of Chalcedon this became known as the Hypostatic Union.  Jesus was not either or, but He has BOTH a human nature AND a divine nature.  

That is why the Incarnation is so amazing, and to be perfectly honest this barely scratches the surface.  As you gather with your families over the next few weeks and exchange gifts and hugs may we remember the ultimate gift.  That ultimate gift is our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.  The second person of the Blessed Trinity, who became man, and experienced everything that we did but was without sin.  He died as the perfect offering for our sin because He loves us that much and he thinks that we are worth being with for eternity!


About our guest blogger:

William is a convert to the Catholic faith.  Before entering the church he was ordained as a Baptist and Lutheran and earned a Master of Divinity from Liberty Theological Seminary.  William lives with his wife and four children in Tucson, AZ and teaches religious education for children and adults.  Check out his website/blog at williamhemsworth.com for more great and informative Catholic content!

Thank you for sharing!

An Advent Reflection on Finding Gratitude in the Stressful Season

By: Jonathan Hicks

On the first Sunday of Advent, our parish priest gave a homily about how during this season the world tends to speed up and get “busier,” but the Church is actually calling us to slow down and spend more time in prayer. My wife and I both left Mass that Sunday with a high resolve to “slow down” this season and not let the usual culprits get the best of us.

too busy meme

First Part of Advent

We got off to a great start. I joined an Advent Meditation group that I was invited to. I committed to some new service opportunities. My wife, Kate, took up extra prayer devotions and made a commitment to go to Confession regularly throughout the season. She went on a retreat. We both decided not to get too crazy with parties, and shopping, and all the usual suspects. We got our kids involved in some new Advent traditions. Things were looking fantastic.

The first week went really well. We worked everything into our already existing routine. We held each other accountable. It seemed like this was going to be the best Advent ever for our family spiritually. However, once Kate left for her retreat, we got a series of unexpected circumstances that through us way off track.

Our Series of Curveballs (or Snowballs)

Once Kate left for retreat, our two year old son got sick with a fever. He couldn’t go to daycare. The illness was prolonged by an ear infection. This was quickly passed to his older and younger brothers and the illness took a week and a half for our family to recover from.

My ability to work during this time was severely limited. Fortunately, my wife and I are both self-employed so it was somewhat manageable. However, ironically during this time I began to generate some new leads and was getting into the thick of a re-vamped marketing plan that I was trying to pick up some steam on before Christmas break.

just keep swimming gif

Nobody was getting a good night’s sleep in our house for about two weeks. Finally, once we thought it was over, then came the stomach virus that afflicted everyone in our family including myself. Suddenly, I found myself stressing out over the season because I was backed up on work and we weren’t ready for Christmas. My prayer routine had gone out the window as I was just trying to stay above water.

God Has a Plan

An Advent prayer

Despite my best plans, my ideal Advent had been de-railed. I had to accept that my prayer life was not going to be perfect, and that I needed to focus on my top priorities for work and possibly save the other tasks until after the New Year.

I’m called in my vocation to love my wife and children. Sometimes that means I cannot commit to a regular routine prayer life and fruitful time of deep contemplation. Sometimes it means holding my five year old while he watches Star Wars until he feels better, or making sure the house is in order because our six month old is sick and just wants to be held by his mom.

The Advent Meditation Group that I joined is looking at Advent through the eyes of St. Joseph. My two biggest takeaways from this group so far in how I am preparing during Advent are:

  • St. Joseph lived his life in humble service to his Creator
  • St. Joseph had a prayer life that was organic.

The Best Prayer is a Humble Prayer

Although I am having trouble getting out my prayer materials at the same time everyday to find fruitful prayer in my routine, I have been seeking God in humble service (to my family) and trying to live a more organic prayer life.

My prayer life has not included things like regular Adoration and Scripture study like it usually does, but I have been taking time regularly throughout my day to thank God for my wife, my kids, the ability to work from home, and the people that have helped me in different facets of my life. It has left me with a more grateful, and simpler attitude.

My marriage has blossomed this Advent as Kate and I both practice gratitude, and I am learning to see God in everyday moments in a special way.

Encouragement

Wherever you are spiritually this Advent, whether your Advent hasn’t gone as planned, you didn’t plan anything special, or it is going better that you thought, I encourage you to stop and consider what God is calling you to in this next week.

Our individual call is just as unique as our set of circumstances. There is always a way to “roll with the punches” and discover our infinite God in new and exciting ways. God meets us where we are. Right in our glorious messes!

The Nativity story is the perfect example of finding God’s will and rolling with the punches. If you are finding that there is “no room at the Inn,” I challenge you to look around you and find your manger where you can slow down and sleep in heavenly peace.

Advent joy


Jonathan Hicks is a husband and father of 3 boys, ages 5, 3 and 6 months. He works as a grant writing consultant and has a passion for Catholic causes, particularly those that serve the poor. Originally from Scranton, PA, he currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI.

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Why the Holidays Don’t Have to be Perfect in 2019

💫💫💫Too often society places pressure for the perfect “holiday” season:

🔷all the gifts must be precisely wrapped and laden under the Christmas tree in a tidy order,

🔷the Christmas meal has to be cooked to the exact temperature and paired with the appropriate side dishes depending on the main dish,

🔷 family members need to behave–especially your “estranged/weird” uncle [or aunt or other unique relative you may have].

The Perfection Pitfall

⚜️Honestly, I fall into this fallacy almost every year myself.

⚜️This year was no different. Stomach flu, toddler tantrums, and lack of sleep dominated the weeks leading up to my Advent.

⚜️I struggled at times to see the purpose in the pain. Going to Sunday Mass helped reorient me back to the right path.

Reason for the Season

⚜️The season of Advent is not about preparing for the “perfect” Christmas where Mary and Joseph get a room at the inn.

⚜️Rather, Advent is about preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth took place in the messiness of the stable, his Passion and Death took place on the messiness of the Cross.

⚜️Not everything in my life will be neatly fit in my control. The same was true for the Holy Family.

Advent

Reflection Questions

❓Is you reaction to unplanned events similar to the humble reaction of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph?

❓How have you prepared your soul for Joy?

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Preparation [for the King] is King

Blustery winds, icy streets, and bustle of the holiday happenings form the recipe for the perfect storm. The best way to combat the crazy I discovered is through preparation for the storm. Recently my family’s home-life has been strained: my wife’s workload keeps getting increased, my job assignments, and testing this month for our two-year old as he gets re-evaluated to see if he would qualify for early childhood special education services still. The crazy keep hitting us before my mind is able to register the previous crazy event or antic that hit me.

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Finding fleeting moments, but still at least some MOMENTS of reprieve as I drive to and from work—after dropping off the kids off at daycare and school of course!—I prepare for the list of all of things or chores, writing topics I hope to write about, and our family’s schedule. Listening to Christian music in the radio, the song What Child is This? came on over the airwaves. No matter the setting that I hear this hymn, I always get choked up—most especially during the refrain:

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:

Haste, haste to bring him laud,

The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Specifically, the words haste stands out for me. Synonyms for haste include: swiftness, rapidity, acceleration, and quickness. I always find it intriguing to talk of birth of Jesus in this hustle and bustle manner. Really, I should not find that too fascinating as expectancy and preparation for the Son of God is a common theme throughout the Bible. Among the more famous Old Testament examples common from Isaiah 7:14, Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign;* the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel.” Over centuries and centuries God gathered a people together under the nation of Israel and promised the birth of a Savior to reunite humanity with God. While preparation takes a long time and patience, it is essential to combat the storms one encounters in life. No greater preparation exists than preparing your soul to receive the King of Kings.

menial-existence

1. Daily Drudgery: A primary side effect of the Fall of humanity in Genesis 3 included pain and toil in daily living. Just because something is painful and boring, or in the case of many jobs, painfully boring, it should not be avoided. Instead, good, authentic, and true work brings a sort of dignity and fulfillment in humanity. According to St. John Paul II in Laborem Exercens, Work is a good thing for man-a good thing for his humanity-because through work man not only transforms nature, adapting it to his own needs, but he also achieves fulfilment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes “more a human being” (no. 9).

2. Constant Constancy: Work turns into daily drudgery when not viewed as an opportunity to growth in virtue and love of neighbor. St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, says it best, “You cannot forget that any worthy, noble and honest work at the human level can — and should! — be raised to the supernatural level, becoming a divine task” (The Forge, no. 687). The only way for this to occur is continual reliance on God. Ask the Holy Spirit for the graces to sustain you in the tough times and the stamina to prepare for the less tough times. As an adopted child of God through the sacrament of Baptism, I too often forget the gifts at my disposal from my Divine Father. I need only to graciously ask for help on the way of my day.

be prepared

American Christian televangelist Robert Schuller, declared, “Spectacular achievement is always preceded by unspectacular preparation.” Preparation goes unnoticed. All the behind the scenes work do not receive any accolades. Oftentimes, the mundane and dryness of preparation for the storms of life wear us down. I pray you may have the patience, fortitude, and mettle to weather the changing tides of life. The most important duty is to prepare for the arrival of the King of Kings. Make the most of the reminder of this Advent season to kindle the flame of expectation for Jesus Christ!


“Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”— Luke 21:36

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An Incarnational—and Infectious—Start to My Advent

sheldon sickness gif.gif

The weeks preceding Christmas—Advent—usually have the perception of being a magical, jovial, and anticipatory of the birth of the Christ-child. While certainly, my Advent began with an anticipation, it lacked marvel and apparent joy. Instead of initially thinking about preparing my heart and mind for the Lord, I juggled the infectious side effects of projectile vomit and diaper explosions. Both of my sons came down with the stomach flu over the weekend.

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Nothing tests a parent’s patience, will-power or love of their children quite like a continual cleaning of bodily fluids. On top of the symptoms of the stomach flu, my youngest son is also recovering from an adenoidectomy (see below diagram if you never heard of that organ before–as I never did prior to this surgery!) Because the flesh is healing behind his nasal cavity, my two year old’s breath has smelled like death since the surgery and apparently it may take up to three weeks for his rotting-breath odor to be gone!  What a start to the New Liturgical year!

Adenoid

Too often society places pressure for the perfect “holiday” season: all the gifts must be precisely wrapped and laden under the Christmas tree in a tidy order, the Christmas meal has to be cooked to the exact temperature and paired with the appropriate side dishes depending on the main dish, and family members need to behave–especially your “estranged/weird” uncle [or aunt or other unique relative you may have]. Honestly, I fall into this fallacy almost every year myself. This year was no different. I hoped to be able to take my entire family to Mass to celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. I wanted to show my kids the beautiful Advent wreath and talk about the particular reasons the priest wears purple, or “FATHER IS DRESSED IN PURPLE” as my daughter would shout with glee. Sadly, none of that happened. Because of my priority as a parent, I had to miss this Mass to care for my ailing family.

missing mass gif.gif

After taking some time to reflect on the apparent failures of the weekends, I realized maybe God was preparing me for something greater—Advent really is all about preparation for the coming of Christ. Revisiting the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, showed me that the arrival of Jesus did not occur in the ideal standards, at least according to the world’s standards. Luke 2:7 details how Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem “too late” and the innkeeper denied them a room at the inn. Instead, of giving birth in the amenities of indoor comfort, Mary had to give birth to Jesus in a humble way—in a simple stable. American novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote the following about the Incarnation,

Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.

god humbled himself.jpg

By becoming a human Jesus was able to encounter the entirely of the human condition save for sin. In my children’s pain, suffering, tiredness, and thirstiness this past weekend, Christ was with them in a unique way as he already suffering all those things during his 33 years on Earth.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 463, “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” The season of Advent is not about preparing for the “perfect” Christmas where Mary and Joseph get a room at the inn. Rather, Advent is about preparing for the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth took place in the messiness of the stable, his Passion and Death took place on the messiness of the Cross. While not everything in my life will be neatly fit in my control, after this incarnational and infectious start to Advent, I had the privilege to be graced with the gift of perspective and opportunity to serve my children as Christ served the world!

Thank you for sharing!