Saturday, December 25, 2010

Homily for the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord–Christmas Eve


Luke 2:1-20; Titus 2:11-14; Isaiah 9:2-7

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

It is dark, and it is cold. There were many reasons for you to stay at home and to not venture out tonight, many did. It’s been a tough year. Some of you are out of work, most of you are living paycheck to paycheck. You are anxious about having enough money. You are anxious about war and terror. You are anxious about your health and the health of those you love. You are anxious about your children. You are anxious about your marriage. It is dark, and it is cold. It would be easy to stay at home and be warm and safe, many did. You have a lot of expectations about this night – what you will hear, what you will see, what you will feel, what you will sing, who you will see and who you won’t see. Most of you will be disappointed. For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

It wasn’t all that different, the night that Jesus was born. The earth turned round on its axis. The silent stars went by. People watched their p’s and q’s around the Roman occupiers. They made their ways to their ancestral home towns to be registered in a census so they could pay their taxes. Shepherds went about their shepherding, the hotels were full, and a young woman, pregnant outside of wedlock, was about to give birth. How silently, how silently the wondrous gift is given.

But, it wasn’t Mary alone who was great with child. All of humanity, all of human history, all of God’s creation had been waiting for this moment, groaning in the pains of childbirth. For, creation and all human history were not so unlike a virgin womb or virgin soil, lifeless, with no ability to produce life on its own. When all was still, and it was midnight, Your almighty Word, O Lord, descended from the royal throne.

For, when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. What a marvelous image, time being full. It gives us the impression that time had been filling, well, for some time. Yes, that’s it precisely! Just as from the moment of conception the child begins to grow and the mother begins to grow, so too, from the moment of the conception of the universe, when God spoke His creative Word into the virgin nothingness, His plan of salvation began to grow and time began progressing towards ever greater fullness. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.

He by whom all things were made was made one of all things. The Son of God by the Father without a mother became the Son of man by a mother without a father. The Word who is God before all time became flesh at the appointed time. The maker of the sun was made under the sun. He who fills the world lay in a manger, great in the form of God but tiny in the form of a servant; this was in such a way that neither was His greatness diminished by His tininess, nor was His tininess overcome by His greatness.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. In the hour of man’s deepest darkness, in the deadness of human hope and possibility, once again, into virgin space, virgin womb, and virgin heart, God’s Word is spoken, “Let there be light.” And there was light. Silent night, holy night! Son of God, love’s pure light radiant beams from Thy holy face with the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. O God, You make this most holy night to shine with the brightness of the True Light.

In Jesus, the Lion and the Lamb lie down together, perfect God and perfect Man. And, this Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world for you. Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned--every one--to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.

It is dark, and it is cold. Today was difficult, tomorrow is uncertain. Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Yes, He was born unto you, He was born for you. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased! Yes, He is pleased with you. He assumed your flesh. He took your sins upon Himself. He suffered your stripes. He died your death. For that which He has not assumed He has not healed; but that which is united to His Godhead is also saved. Thus, there is joy in this world, and there is peace on this earth. God and man are reconciled.

While the nations rage and people plot in vain, while the kings of the earth set themselves and rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His anointed, He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision saying, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” When all was still, and it was midnight, Your almighty Word, O Lord, descended from the royal throne. Behold the Lord’s holy hill. Behold His Zion. Behold your King who is present for you in flesh and blood shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, for life, and for eternal salvation. This is the Christ Mass. O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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