It took me a year to pick up Scott Hahn’s Joy to the World: How Christ’s Coming Changed Everything (And Still Does) due to an eight-and-a-half pound bundle who arrived at our house shortly after last Christmas. I’d been looking forward to reading it all year, and it did not disappoint. Dr. Hahn’s book is great for everyone, but I’d especially recommend it for those grumpy Catholics (myself included!) who are tempted to look down at Christmas as being less significant than the more austere, grander Lent and Easter. Joy to the World examines the theology behind the very familiar Christmas story and the significance of the Incarnation using scripture and history and makes a compelling case for why joy ought to be the hallmark of a true Christian spirituality.
Most astonishing to me was Dr. Hahn’s section on angels. Angels, we know, feature prominently in the Christmas story. We see the angel Gabriel asking Mary to become the Mother of God, the angels appearing to the shepherds to tell them of Christ’s birth, and possibly also in the Christmas “star” (perhaps another angel?). Dr. Hahn reminds us that Christ’s birth is a moment of “comeuppance” for the bad angels who despised God’s plan for the redemption of mankind through the Incarnation, a moment of glory for the good angels who consented to serve a God-made-man. Before the Incarnation, Dr. Hahn points out, the angels in the Old Testament terrified those to whom they appeared. After, however, the angels offer messages of peace, now our brothers united in the Incarnation. Angels, whose main job it is to worship, now worship God on earth after He deigned to be born here. Hence, we see angels visiting little old Bethlehem.
That was all stunning enough, but Dr. Hahn’s conclusion to that chapter really struck a chord within me. He writes:
Where God abides, the angels worship. Where two or three are gathered in Christ’s name, God abides, and the angels worship. Where there is a marriage bond, there is God—within that family sacramentally—and there the angels gather and worship (96).
Dr. Hahn points out that the Christmas story is really a story about a family, about the family. God became man to redeem mankind through the family, and He is really and truly present in the sacramental marriage. This Christmas, the angels remind us of the tremendous glory hidden in our marriages, this powerful force for good, this divine reality which dwells within our homes and can truly spread joy to the world.
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Copyright 2016 Meg Matenaer.