The evangelist John sings: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him. Yet the world did not recognize him. He came among his own, and his own did not accept him.”
Why didn’t men welcome the Son of God? Because they didn’t expect this kind of salvation. They were waiting for a hero who would come with force to free the people of Israel. They were waiting for Elijah to return. They had their own ideas on how to be saved. And maybe we are like that, too: We don’t welcome Him because we have our own concept of how He should be. What our salvation should look like.
Salvation yet comes as a total surprise. It comes during the night. It comes and introduces itself to the humble: first to Mary, to Joseph, then to the shepherds, finally to the wise men from abroad. And most importantly, it comes as a child. It comes as a weak, very weak, very small individual, dependent on a mother, vulnerable.
The salvation that comes from God breaks our concepts, including the concept of immediate, complete, and instant redemption.
With Christ, salvation becomes a history. Since God becomes man, redemption takes place in our history. Like a child who grows, who develops, who shows his beauty from the very beginning, but reveals his whole being little by little, so does Jesus: He continues to surprise his people, even after his birth:
When he speaks with authority in the synagogue as a teenager,
when he surprises his own by the way he treats prostitutes, tax collectors, foreigners,
when he talks to God as to his daddy,
when he touches people, when he lets himself be touched, and when he heals them,
when he forgives sins,
when he suffers – he, the salvation! – the salvation suffers!
when he sacrifices himself – salvation sacrifices itself!
when he dies – the Eternal Word dies! The glory of the Lord dies!
when he rises on the third day and manifests the final victory of salvation over all sin, sickness, and death.
Thus the Lord reveals to us that his salvation comes in a different way from how we think, that his salvation – although already totally present in the child – is revealed little by little, because we can only welcome him slowly, because we are weak men.
Thus also our life becomes a history of salvation in which God reveals himself little by little to us. As John says: “But to those who welcomed him, he gave power to become children of God.” Salvation is a becoming. If we assimilate ourselves to Christ, we too become children of God like him, in whom there is light, peace, and salvation.
In this sense, today, at Christmas, something truly new begins. Today we celebrate an essential and fundamental beginning. The waiting does not continue. Salvation begins, but it also wants to be revealed, developed. The salvation which is complete in Christ, – for us – it occurs in time so that we too can become children of God.
Dear ones, the pandemic has come as a surprise. Nobody was expecting it. So we’re still a little paralyzed, aren’t we? We are also a bit timid about what is to come. Or we are fatalists: “Who knows what comes next …”
Instead, dear brothers and sisters, the real surprise comes from the Lord. The fatalist and the timid do not expect a positive surprise. They do not wait for salvation. The pandemic is a challenge for almost everyone. To those who do not experience it as a challenge, I say: Turn to those who suffer and help them. All the others I ask: Do you believe that among all the challenges of these days, God – little by little – reveals himself – first of all for me, personally, but also for us, together, as his people?
God wants to surprise us every day. Let’s try to walk these days with this kind of curiosity: where does God surprise me today? I’m curious. Where is He born, suddenly? Where does my salvation develop in my life? Where do I become even more safe and sound, even more son or daughter of God?
Thus what the prophet says becomes true: “All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.”