Verbum caro factum est is Latin for “The Word was made flesh”, from john 1 in the Bible. This has been one of my most favorite quotations ever since I sang a song by that title in college choir. Over the years, seems to me that this is the real meaning of Christmas.
I am no theologian, but this is how I see things with regard to Christmas. Let us start with the Jews in the Bible. The Jews, early on, were not a well organized group: no king, no queen, no castles nor walls, no priests nor churches, no police department, no military, no city hall, not even a House of Congress. I see it very similarly as John describes The City of God in The Book of Revelation.
“I did not see a temple in the city, because its temple is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. The city has no need of the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God shines on it, and the Lamb is its lamp. The peoples of the world will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their wealth into it. The gates of the city will stand open all day; they will never be closed, because there will be no night there.”
In Genesis, I do not see any kings. Noah, Moses, Abraham, were not kings; rather spiritual leaders. The Jews lived under the First Law, but after the Golden Calf incident, they were given a Second Law (Deuteronomic Law) – an easier law for ordinary people with common human weaknesses: dietary rules, multiple wives, stoning to death for adultery, etc. Kings do not come into the picture until the Era of David. This was a definite “no no” because God was supposed to be their only King.
So what went wrong? Answer: Free Will. The Jews found these rules too hard. They wanted to mix and get along with the other nations in the region. Having one wife was too much. They wanted to go to church and get buddy buddy with the surrounding pagans and share their Gods too. Israel wanted to have a King, a palace, and a standing army like everyone else. After all, most people in that region spoke some form of a Semitic language. They had free will to make the right choice and they just could not do it.
I see a good example of The City of God in how Moses leads the Israelites across the Red Sea. The Jews had no weapons nor army, only God was their shield. There was no need for them to fight back for they had the greatest Defender. But they strayed from this, just like we all do.
The Christ in Christmas stands for Messiah, or otherwise known as “Anointed One”. Why was a “Chosen One” needed? The one reason I can find is Free Will, that same ole nasty snake raising his ugly head again. People are creatures of habit and once they get moving down a certain path, it is just hard to turn one’s face back to the Sun and accept the forgiveness that was always there and never left. If you have ever been responsible for the work of other people, then you have probably said, “If no one will do it, then I guess I just have to do it myself”. Thus, we have the Incarnation or as rephrased, “Verbum Caro Factum Est”.
Another fancy word that describes all this is Atonement. Literally the word is At One Ment. I will not go into the entire story of the Incarnation and such; but, I will share a personal story. When I was about 11, me and my father had a period where we were really “locking horns”. I was just sick of all the orders and yelling. So, I dug my heels in and refused to give in. My father, at his wits end, finally just talked to me and laid things out on the table that “he was at the end of his rope”. I never spoke back to him again, even to this day. As we meditate on Christmas, let us think about what it takes to get the job done, because sometimes you just got to get your hands dirty; and kindly turn folks back towards that radiant Sun: Verbum Caro Factum Est.