This is a perfect book to read if you want to embrace the true meaning and significance of Christ becoming flesh and dwelling among us.
Throughout Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (And Still Does), biblical scholar Scott Hahn includes thought-provoking insights into the culture at the time when Mary gave birth in a barn, placed their firstborn son in a feeding trough, and watched in awe as shepherds and wise men came to pay Him homage. Hahn says that: "Christmas is, for me, the joy and the love that passed between a young woman and the child who had been placed in her arms" (p. 6)
Combined with the wisdom of theologians across the ages and some of the author’s own personal encounters while visiting Bethlehem, we’re given a rich context for the arrival of the long-awaited Emanuel, “God with us.”
I love how adept Hahn is at putting readers right into the heart of the story. He gives a new perspective to Scripture passages many have memorized or tend to glaze over because they’ve become so familiar. He describes Mary and Joseph’s heritage, the circumstances of Christ’s birth, and explains how the early years of Jesus’ life fulfilled the prophesies of old about the Savior of the world.
The wonderful story he shares about his visit to the Holy Land with his daughter captures precisely what the season is about and how we can go from being listless and bored, to feeling present, alert, needed, and appreciated by the presence of just one person. So often we’re closed off to yet another list of “important” facts or statistics, but when we see a real human need before us, we are inspired to do what we can to meet it.
If this season is about a person who lived 2000 years ago and has no real influence on our lives today, then it might make sense to spend a little time going over the evidence and history of Christ’s life and then calling it a day. But that’s not the case. We are invited to encounter the person of Jesus Christ who is just as present today as He was in Mary’s womb for nine months and on the day of his birth in a little backwater town with no accommodations available that had only one star.
We don’t have to travel a long way to connect with the love and light, hope and joy, miracles and possibilities that were made flesh when God came to dwell among us. If we’re able to grasp even the smallest ray of light revealed through the birth of the Messiah, then everything in and around us changes.
First-time parents prepare for the arrival of their child without being able to fathom all the ways, big and small, in which their newborn will transform their lives. In the same way, the deeper into the mystery of new life and God’s will we allow ourselves to go, the greater the awe and profound reverence we experience. The more complete the metanoia will be in, through, and around us.
Complacency seems ridiculous, if not impossible, when we begin to understand the magnitude of this miracle and the implications of it for all of time and eternity. If the Christmas story has become quaint, small or too familiar to be inspiring or life-changing, I recommend reading Joy to the World to reconnect with the celestial scope and hope of the Incarnation.