December 16: Kenosis

Published December 16, 2015 by Unprodigal Daughter


During Christmastime, we waver back and forth between images and ideas of Christ’s humanity and Christ’s divinity. Our instinct is to prefer Christ’s divinity, because of how deeply we need God’s help. In the past, we tried many things to save ourselves, but to no avail. The only thing that made sense was for a mighty God to swoop in and wipe out our enemies.

But God’s plan for a savior and our plan for a savior did not match up. Throughout salvation history, God always takes the conventional and flips it upside down–God does the same with Jesus. God unconventionally gave us a savior who was all-loving and all-giving. It is Christ’s humanity and its inseparable link to Christ’s divinity, that makes God’s saving power so great. Only a God of Love would give up everything to be like us. Before we reflect deeper on Christ’s humanity, let us first look at how the Nativity story is intertwined with Christ’s divinity.

Christ’s divinity comes through when we look at the specific unusual events surrounding his birth story. Angels come to Christ’s parents and his visitors in visions, great leaders from faraway lands follow a star to meet him, and of course, his birth was divine due to his mother’s virginity.

It has been said that anything is possible with God, so those events seemed fitting for him. There are several instances in the Nativity story where the authors show God’s divine power, just like in the Old Testament. But the all-powerful God who has control over angels and creation is the God that we already knew. However, it was God’s humanity that taught us how much he really loved us. Let us now reflect on Christ’s humanity.

Remember that we wanted a Savior who was a soldier, a winner, a tough guy….This is a theme we see this over and over again in our Advent Old Testament readings. Our Scripture says the Messiah would be coming with political power, and that he gathers the scattered tribes of Israel. The Messiah did not end up looking like that, though. He was not a great and commanding leader of armies. God gave us someone meek and humble who taught us to be soldiers of love instead. Jesus, while on earth, helped us by teaching us to love like he does. Jesus’s time on earth was spent emptying himself for others. His birth was the beginning of this destiny, but it continued through his ministry, and eventually culminated in the ultimate sacrifice–the sacrifice of his own life.

In the first reading for today, God is all-powerful and mighty. He sounds like the God that everyone was used to thinking about. But if you keep reading, today’s Gospel tells us of a different God. Luke describes to us a human God, that is so unconventional that his contemporaries do not even recognize him to be God (“Are you the one who is to come, or should we wait for another?”). This God-Man limited himself to be like us in every way (except sin). Luke tells us that the God-Man does not punish the sick or ostracize the sinner like society had done for so long–he loves them through his own self-sacrificing behavior, and actually heals those who society will not touch.

The God-Man is the God of Kenosis (self-emptying). The God-Man is the God of Hope. He is not a distant, omniscient, omnipotent, disconnected God. While he is all-powerful and fully divine, he shows his divinity truly through his humbling behavior. The God-Man is the God of Love.

Opening Prayer

Jesus, You left the splendor of heaven to take on flesh and dwell among us as You became God in the flesh. In Your humanness You were victorious in the raging battle against the spiritual forces of evil when faced with temptations and trials common to all people. We stand in glorious victory as we follow Your example and hold to Your unchanging truths. How amazing, that You made Yourself nothing, being made in human likeness so that we could relate to Your human condition and partake of Your divine nature. We love You with all our hearts. Amen.

(taken from 

Daily Readings

Reading 1: IS 45:6C-8, 18, 21C-25

I am the LORD, there is no other;
I form the light, and create the darkness,
I make well-being and create woe;
I, the LORD, do all these things.
Let justice descend, O heavens, like dew from above,
like gentle rain let the skies drop it down.
Let the earth open and salvation bud forth;
let justice also spring up!
I, the LORD, have created this.

For thus says the LORD,
The creator of the heavens,
who is God,
The designer and maker of the earth
who established it,
Not creating it to be a waste,
but designing it be lived in:
I am the LORD, and there is no other.

Who announced this from the beginning
and foretold it from of old?
Was it not I, the LORD,
besides whom there is no other God?
There is no just and saving God but me.

Turn to me and be safe,
all you ends of the earth,
for I am God; there is no other!
By myself I swear,
uttering my just decree
and my unalterable word:
To me every knee shall bend;
by me every tongue shall swear,
Saying, “Only in the LORD
are just deeds and power.
Before him in shame shall come
all who vent their anger against him.
In the LORD shall be the vindication and the glory
of all the descendants of Israel.”

Responsorial Psalm: PS 85:9AB AND 10, 11-12, 13-14

R. (Isaiah 45:8) Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.

I will hear what God proclaims;
the LORD –for he proclaims peace to his people.
Near indeed is his salvation to those who fear him,
glory dwelling in our land.
R. Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.

Kindness and truth shall meet;
justice and peace shall kiss.
Truth shall spring out of the earth,
and justice shall look down from heaven.
R. Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.


The LORD himself will give his benefits;
our land shall yield its increase.
Justice shall walk before him,
and salvation, along the way of his steps.
R. Let the clouds rain down the Just One, and the earth bring forth a Savior.

Gospel: LK 7:18B-23

At that time,
John summoned two of his disciples and sent them to the Lord to ask,
“Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?”
When the men came to the Lord, they said,
“John the Baptist has sent us to you to ask,
‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’”
At that time Jesus cured many of their diseases, sufferings, and evil spirits;
he also granted sight to many who were blind.
And Jesus said to them in reply,
“Go and tell John what you have seen and heard:
the blind regain their sight,
the lame walk,
lepers are cleansed,
the deaf hear, the dead are raised,
the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”



For another reflection on Christ’s divinity and humanity, enjoy Bishop Barron’s clip.

Additional Activities 

For a little comical relief on the theology of the Nativity, watch this video with a talking Nativity scene. 

Closing Prayer 

O Word, now wrapped in human skin, speak peace on earth through your children. Come, let us sing to the Lord. Let us shout for joy to the rock of our salvation. Teach us how to tend to you in your self-imposed vulnerability with us. Prepare us in these tender moments to see what incarnation means in our world. Amen. 

(taken from:

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