Sunday, December 25, 2011

Homily for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord (Christmas Day)


John 1:1-18; Titus 3:4-7; Exodus 40:17-21; 34-38

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

In these post-modern times, in which truth and absolutes are denied but are replaced with feelings and perceptions, where all things are tolerated except perceived intolerance, at times it may seem as though words, too, have become meaningless, or, perhaps, they have become connected with so many meanings so as to be rendered effectively meaningless. Indeed, words such as marriage and family which, five or ten years ago had a near universal definition, have been redefined to mean, well, something quite different, or, possibly, to mean anything at all and so, consequently, nothing at all. Yet, you and I know that this is not true. In fact, we all know that this is not true. For, we know and we believe that words do have meaning, for we can feel their meanings emotionally, and we can suffer or benefit from their meanings physically. Words can help and comfort, but words can also enslave and kill. Words can inspire and motivate, but words can also demean and dissuade. Thus, men will fight and die to defend our freedom to speak words, while, at the same time, men will pass laws and exert force to prohibit words from being spoken that they do not want to hear. But, words mean things, and words are powerful, even the temporal and terminate words of men.

Thus, when we consider the Word of our God this Christmas morning, words written down for us almost two thousand years ago by the Apostle John, we must consider that, as powerful and effective as man’s words are, how much more powerful and effective is the life-giving and creative Word of God. When God speaks, His Word brings into being what He says. In the beginning, He created all things by the power of His creative Word so that “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” He attached His Word to two trees in the Garden of Eden and they brought life and death respectively because of the power of His creative Word. When our First Parents rebelled against God and chose to follow their own word instead of His, amidst the irrevocable curse of death, He spoke His irrevocable Word of redemption in the promise of a seed from the woman who would crush the ancient serpent’s head. God gave His Word and promise to Abram as an unbreakable covenant that an heir from his own flesh would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, and He renewed His covenant throughout generations of Abram’s line, through Isaac and Jacob, through Moses and David. And God kept His Word when His glory surrounded the Virgin Mary and brought forth life out of her fruitless womb in the new creation, a New Adam, the Word of God became flesh, dwelling amongst us.

Jesus is the powerful, creative, and eternal Word of God, conceived and born as a man. He is God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. He is the Divine Logos, the Divine intellect, wisdom and the Providence of God in whom all things are created and still exist. He was before all things, being with God in the beginning and of God’s own being Himself. He is the creative Word through which all things were made and are still sustained. This is the Word that became flesh. This is the Word spoken into the ear of the Virgin Mary, conceived in her womb, and born on Christmas Day. This is the Word that was wrapped in swaddling cloths and was laid in a manger. This is the Word that was circumcised and named on the eighth day and presented to the priests in the temple. This is the Word visited and worshipped by gentile sages from afar who brought Him precious gifts as a tribute. This is the Word that grew up through adolescence and was instructed by the rabbis who at twelve years of age caused them to marvel at His knowledge and wisdom. This is the Word that was baptized by John in the Jordan, upon whom the LORD’s Spirit descended and remained. This is the Word that healed the sick, forgave sinners, and raised the dead, showing mercy and compassion on poor, helpless, and broken sinners of all kinds. This is the Word rejected by the children of Adam just as by their father. This is the Word they mocked and scourged and spat upon and nailed to a tree of death. This is the Word who transformed that cursed tree of death into a blessed Tree of Life once again. This is the Word who opened Paradise to Adam’s descendents once again that they might dwell in God’s presence and receive life freely from the LORD and giver of life. This is the Word become flesh who was raised in our flesh from the dead. This is the Word made flesh who ascended in our flesh to the right hand of the Father in heaven. This is the Word made flesh who fills all things in His fleshly divinity and is present as Emmanuel, God with us, now and always. This is the Word made flesh who is coming again in the flesh to raise all people from the dead, in the flesh, and to usher in a new heaven and a new earth where all who receive and believe on His Name will reign with Him as Kings and Queens forever.

For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon Hs shoulder, and His Name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. When we ponder the Christ child, the babe of Bethlehem, lying in a manger and the story of His birth, we cannot help but be touched by the lowliness and humility of His coming. But on Christmas Day, we are invited and we are challenged to see in that holy infant the fullness of God’s glory and divinity. For, this is the true mystery of Christmas and also the greatest gift, that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” It was His and His only to give, and He has given it unsparingly because He loves you. He loves you that you might loves others with His love. This is God’s gift at Christmas, His gift of love. As He has given you, so you also may give.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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