A Reflection on the Nativity and Incarnation of Christ – Advent 2023


We cannot achieve true intimacy in our lives without being vulnerable. In His Incarnation, Jesus gives us a perfect example of vulnerability.

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Reflective Study Guide Questions

“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,”

Lk. 2:7

1. Fr. Gale relates an anecdote of a trip to Mexico City, during which he was very dependent and vulnerable because he had to trust his classmate. Have you ever had an experience of vulnerability like this? In what areas of your life are you most dependent on others?

2. Jesus came to Earth as a Baby. He was born in a stable, laid in a manger, and had to flee to Egypt soon after. He was not safe and was incredibly vulnerable. How can reflecting on the vulnerability of the Infant Jesus change the way you view vulnerability?

3. The only way we can experience true intimacy is to share our true self. We must be vulnerable with others and share our hearts with them in order to find intimacy. Who are you most vulnerable with in your life? Has this vulnerability led to intimacy?

4.  The sacrament of Confession is one of the deepest experiences of vulnerability we can have. How do you normally view Confession? How can you work on looking at Confession as an encounter with Jesus?

Text: A Reflection on the Nativity and Incarnation of Christ

Friends, Father Gale Hammerschmidt here with the Pray More Advent Retreat. Good to be with you. Let’s pray.

Opening Prayer

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord, we are enamored with you for the way in which you have risked everything to love us, for the way in which you came to live among us, to show us how to live. And so we simply ask that we can be more like you. And we ask this through your most holy name. Amen. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Vulnerability of Jesus

Today, friends, we talk about the vulnerability of Jesus and how that then becomes an invitation for us to be vulnerable with Him. I’m going to tell a story of the summer of 2010, one of the wildest summers of my life. I spent the entire summer in Mexico, in Guadalajara, Mexico learning Spanish, an intensive Spanish language course. And one day we had the great opportunity to leave Guadalajara so as to spend about four days in Mexico City, a bit of a, just a weekend vacation. And so myself, I was in the seminary at the time, some of the others who were seminarians studying at the very same school that I was, we all headed to Mexico City.

Now, I might be a lot different than you because I’m one of those people who likes to kind of be in control, right? I’m one of those humans that likes to have control. Right, exactly, not that different than you, because I think we all have a touch of that within us. I want to be in control. I want to be knowing what’s going on every moment of every day. I don’t like the unknown. I don’t like necessarily having to trust others.

But for some reason, I just knew that I was called on this trip to Mexico City to put all of my trust in one particular other classmate, a seminarian. A seminarian, I believe, I haven’t encountered him yet again since that time. I believe he was from maybe Wisconsin, maybe Minnesota, from that part of the United States. And luckily he was about 6’8″. He was a very tall man. And he had studied the ins and outs of Mexico City. This was a guy who was a planner beyond being a planner. And he just simply said to the rest of us, “Hey fellas, don’t worry about it. I got this, I’ve got this. You trust me, I’ll get you where you need to be.”

And there’s just something that clicked in my heart, like, I’m tired of being in control. This Spanish language thing is very difficult for me. I just need to breathe, to rest, to trust somebody else to be perhaps in control. And so I said, “It’s all yours, it’s all yours.” And I just remember that four days. We went to see the beautiful Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. We went and saw the pyramids outside of Mexico City. We were just really experiencing that which Mexico City had to offer. And there I was in a city, right, that there’s probably more people in that city. I was surrounded by more people in that city than there is even in like the state that I live in, Kansas, and probably the boarding seven, eight, nine states. Like, all of the Central Plains, probably does not have as many people as Mexico City itself. And there I was, not knowing, where I was not able to speak the language very well, at least, and just fully trusting this other classmate who was 6’8″. So I could always see him. I could always see the top of his head rising above the rest of us. As long as I follow him, as long as he is in my sight, I’m okay. I’m going to be okay.

It was an incredibly. It was an incredibly refreshing time, exhilarating even, if you will. I forever look upon that trip in Mexico City with great fondness. And I think it’s because I allowed myself not to be in control, vulnerable, if you will. Vulnerable insofar as I had to place my trust in another. But it was something that was special. I think the Lord invites us into something similar, into something similar.

Ways The Lord Shows Us Vulnerability

How is it that our Lord showed us vulnerability? Well, just imagine. He who is God of all things, the king of the universe, the creator of all things, He comes to earth as a baby and He lays in a trough, a manger. Not there long after goes with Mary and Joseph to Egypt. You know, it was very unsafe, you could say. He was, first of all, he was not in control anymore. He has allowed himself to become a human baby. He is incredibly dependent upon his parents. He’s not safe. He’s not in control. He’s ultimately incredibly vulnerable, vulnerable. We don’t like that, do we? None of us adults, we don’t like being vulnerable. Why? Because it’s a risk, it’s a risk.

You know, the Lord, we could say He risked it all. Well, first and foremost, in even creating us and giving us free will, allowing us to choose Him or not. But then He risked it all again as He came to live among us, striving to show us what love truly was. It’s crazy, it’s crazy. It’s vulnerable and it’s necessary, dare I say, necessary. He showed us the way and now we follow. I felt maybe we could dive a little bit deeper even into the word vulnerability and what it is. You know, what does it mean to be vulnerable? I think on a human level, and for us, many times when we hear that word, we think, “Okay, well, if I’m going to be vulnerable, I have to put myself out there. My true self, I have to give over to someone, to maybe something.” And it’s a risk. It’s dangerous.

Encountering Real Love

I know a lot of times we talk about this, especially in human relationships, that the only way we’re going to encounter intimacy and true love is by being vulnerable and sharing our true self. Something we need to do in prayer with the Lord. But it’s also something that we need to do in friendships and relationships, most especially in marital relationships.

I remember a time I was giving a conference. I was giving a conference and there were many people that were participating. And later that night, I received an email from a woman who was participating in the conference. And she said to me, she said, “Father, you began speaking today. And then you started to talk on the topic of marriage. And I became instantaneously very, very angry with you Father. Who is this celibate priest trying to tell me about marriage? What does he know? What does he know?” And the point that I was making is that, unless we can truly give of our hearts to a spouse, to another, then we won’t have intimacy. There is no intimacy without the sharing of a heart. Speaking of the deepest longings of a heart, the most profound joys, the, really, the largest fears, the good, the bad, the ugly, if you will. If we can’t reveal it all in the presence of someone we know and love, then that love will necessarily be diminished. It will not be an intimate love. It cannot be an intimate love, unless we are willing to risk even giving over our own emotions, thoughts, fears, and longings. That was the point I made. That was the point I made.

And so this woman, she continued. She said, “I was so mad at you, but then you started to speak about intimacy and vulnerability.” She said, “Father, you maybe don’t recognize this, but I had to lower my face so that nobody would see the tears coming out of my eyes and down my face.” She said, “I’m sad to say this, but I haven’t been intimate with my husband in a real way in probably 10 years, maybe ever because we do not share our hearts with each other. We are not truly vulnerable with each other. And so as you shared that, I cried. And I ask you for prayers, Father.” That’s what she wrote me. She recognized that in order for us to encounter love, to know love, we have to risk it all to gain it all. And are we willing to do so? You see, because the Lord, He was willing. He was willing.

You can think about this as the Lord lay in the manger, as the Lord is nailed to the cross, obviously, He is not feeling overly safe. And yet so many times, isn’t that what we long for? We just want to feel safe. We want to be sure that our walls are built as such, so that we can live comfortably and safe. And he says, “No, that’s not the way. That’s not the way.”

His Vulnerability Shows Us How to Be Vulnerable

What do we know from the great C. S. Lewis book, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe?” We have Susan, right? This great character Susan, talking with Mr. Beaver. If you don’t know the books, maybe maybe check them out, read them. “The Chronicles of Narnia books” and this book, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.” And Susan finds out that Aslan, Aslan, this great lion kind of rules over Narnia. Aslan, who C. S. Lewis proposes to us as God. And Susan says in regards to Aslan, “Oh, sounds frightening. Tell me, is he safe?” And Mr. Beaver, in response, says, “Safe? Oh, no. What would make you think that he was safe? Definitely not safe, but good, but good.”

I think that’s something that we learn as Jesus takes on human flesh. That He’s willing to even sacrifice safety to love, to put His life out there for us, to encounter Him in a new way, a fresh way, a different way than had ever been known prior. His vulnerability shows us how to be vulnerable. What is it that he did at the death of His friend Lazarus? He wept. He wept. Jesus felt emotion. Jesus was not guarded. He did not build the walls. He did not have to be stoic or tough. He was the perfect man. And He shows us how to be human, how to love.

The Importance of Confession

You know, it’s funny because I experience maybe humanity in its most real form, almost on a daily basis, in one particular place that rises above all others. It’s the confessional. It’s confessional. Isn’t that interesting? Because you see, when people walk into my confessional and they close that door behind them, they’ve decided, “Okay, all of those walls that I’ve built, I’m lowering them and I’m just going to be me.” When confessions are done as they ought to be done, people have walked into a room where they say to themselves, “I now will be vulnerable. I’ll speak of the very worst parts of myself, the ugliest things that I have done. But I know that on the other side, there is love, there is freedom, and there is forgiveness.”

There is maybe a three-day period where I didn’t have Kleenex tissues in my confessional. I was a very bad priest for those three days because many tears are shed in the confessional. Why? Because, well, vulnerability sometimes leads us even to tears. And we know the tears are good always. A gift of the Holy Spirit, either tears of joy or that which just releases the pain that exists within a human heart, but nonetheless, really, really good. And it’s in the confessional, maybe more than anywhere else, that I encounter people sharing with me their deepest fears, their most profound longings, even their greatest joys. Entering with fear perhaps, and tears in their eyes, and walking out with a lightened heart. A heart that is loved, a heart that has encountered Jesus.

Maybe just something for us to think about these days, our own experience with the confessional. Is this what we encounter in the confessional? Is this what we experience? I’ll say this as well, and I’ve said it many times, If you encounter a priest in the confessional who’s mean, shame on him. Go to a different priest. Come on down to Kansas and I’ll hear your confession. I know we’re not perfect. And sometimes priests can be grouchy, but shame on him, because he’s standing in the person of Christ in that moment.

And Jesus rejoices that you’re being vulnerable, that you’re giving it all over to Him, that you’re allowing Him to love you. And that’s what it’s all about. He’s shown Himself to be a friend who cannot bring Himself to stay away for long. All He does is call us. And He goes so far as to even enter into our world, to live, to breathe, to suffer, to die, and to rise again to show us how to do the same.

I know at times you say, “Father, I don’t want to risk a broken heart.” But only a heart that is willing to be broken can encounter love. Let’s cast off these shackles of safety. Let us enter into a world of vulnerability, especially in prayer, especially in the confessional, especially with our Lord and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Let us pray.

Closing Prayer

In the name of the Father, and the Son, the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lord, you give us the perfect example of vulnerability, not only in your life and in your example, but even in your blessed mother, the way she loved. Help us to love like that. Help us to risk it all so as to gain it all. For we do trust you, we love you. We ask you to bless us this day and every day. Amen. In the name of the Father, and the Son, the Holy Spirit. Amen.

What a joy to be with all of you. Many blessings to you for the rest of this Advent and throughout a lifetime.

About Fr. Gale Hammerschmidt

Fr. Gale Hammerschmidt was born and raised in Hays, Kansas and graduated from Thomas More Prep/Marian High School. He then attended Kansas State University where he received a degree in secondary education. Fr. Gale spent nine years in Manhattan, KS at Msgr. Luckey Jr. High School as a history teacher and football, basketball, and track coach.

From 2005-2012, Fr. Gale studied at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, CO. In 2012, Fr. Gale was ordained a priest and is currently the pastor of St. Isidore’s Catholic Student Center at Kansas State University in Manhattan, KS. Prior to this assignment, he served as a priest in Junction City, KS, and at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Salina, KS.  Fr. Gale has served as a high school chaplain and vocation director for the Diocese of Salina. He is also the founder of the Prayer and Action summer mission program that has now spread to numerous dioceses throughout the country.

You can find Fr. Gale: on his Facebook pageInstagram, and through his Church’s website.