Friday, December 25, 2009
Homily for Christmas Day
Here we are on Christmas Day after the crescendo of Advent and the Christmas Eve services of last night. Over this past month we have diligently decorated our trees, hauled out the Christmas decorations from the attic and garage; arranged the greenery and crèches; lit the Advent wreaths, baked the Christmas cookies; wrapped all the presents. We have been building on the excitement and anticipation of this day for several weeks. We have put in so much effort into creating the “perfect holiday”. So, this is the day we have prepared for. And in a moment, “in the twinkling of an eye”, the packages are torn into, the food is devoured and we can finally relax... And let’s not forget too... that finally, at last, we have a baby in the manger... “the Word made flesh”
Our Gospel reading from St. John (John 1:1-15) that we read today gives us a much different spin on the all too familiar birth narrative that we read last night. If you are like me, it is much easier to get our mind around the image of a baby in a manger than it is to swallow this notion of “the Word made flesh”. Sometimes it is just difficult to comprehend this theology. Nevertheless, in these mysterious words that we read today, “In the beginning was the Word...,” we are called to reflect on an extraordinary truth about Jesus.
At the time that the Gospel of John was written, for the Greek scholars of that day, the concept of “the Word” was a philosophical concept or theory. It was a concept that would have been very familiar to them. These early Greek scholars suggested that there was a source of eternal truth or absolute truth. This source they termed The Logos: “The Word.” To them, there was nothing personal about the idea. It was just assumed that only a few of the educated elite would be able to contemplate this truth or even begin to understand it.
As The Rev. Anthony Clavier put it in his sermon on Christmas, “the idea of an eternal Word tells us two things. The first is that there is a truth, an eternal truth to which we have access. The second idea is that this truth is communicated to us by God. ‘The Word became flesh and dwelt with us.’ St. John here says something extraordinary. The eternal truth of God, God communicating to us, is not just a philosophical ideal for scholars, but a real person for which we all have access. Jesus is the Truth, Jesus is God communicating (to us). Jesus embodies God’s agenda for the Church and for the world.”
It is easy for us to look at the all too familiar image of a stable and a new born in a manger and see the glory. We have created for ourselves a lot of pomp and circumstance around our version of the Christmas story. However, another way to look at this story is to see God’s identity with those who have nothing. The truth in the story about the Holy Family is one of two ordinary people, living in poverty, trying desperately to find some relief from the cold and place suitable for Mary to give birth as her labor pains grew stronger and more frequent. All they can find is dirty cave filled with animal manure and rotting hay. The baby is born and they have to just make do with what they have. Tired, cold, hungry, scared and alone they bring into the world a baby. It is an ordinary miracle for a baby to be born. But this was just not any baby. It is easy to wonder if Mary and Joseph knew the significance of this baby in front of them. After all, they were just two ordinary poor people just trying to survive. Little did they know who this baby would become, God incarnate; “the Word made Flesh”. As we hear echoed later in the Gospel of John, this baby does become, “the way, the truth and the life...” The amazing thing is how God chose to bring all this about.
You see, God could have chosen to bring a savior into the world in much more dramatic way. God could have revealed the truth to us in a way that had many more “bells and whistles”. He could have revealed himself in a much more powerful way... or did he? “The Word became flesh”... flesh, just like you and I are flesh. Jesus was born of a woman, living an ordinary life. The son of God was born to an ordinary human being. God used ordinary human beings, living an ordinary meager existence to change us. But God also uses you and me. For just as God became human in Mary’s womb, so God the Son, that babe in the manger, enters our humanity, and causes us to be changed. Just as God used Mary and Joseph to help bring about change in the world, God also sends us to bring about change. That is what our Baptism is all about. It is the miracle of allowing God to work through us that brings hope into the world; a hope that can transform all of human kind. It is the kind of transformation that only the love of God can bring that causes frail and powerless human beings to be transformed from living in despair to living in hope. It was the willingness of that baby, who grew to become a man, to die on a Cross so that we might live.
We are all called to follow the same journey that Jesus did here on earth. We all begin life through the miracle of a birth. Each of us are born into different circumstances. Some of us are born into privilege... others might be born into poverty or life circumstances that lends itself to suffering. Regardless of our circumstances, we are still all called to follow Christ... “the Word made flesh”. We are all the flesh of God. We become agents of God’s purpose as we do as God wants us to do. We tell the Gospel story to others. We love one another. The transforming power of God is played out in the world through us by: caring for the sick, the outcast, the starving, those in the midst of war and civil disturbances, the homeless in the street, those tortured by addiction, the abused and neglected, the single mother abandoned by her parents, those living without knowing when they might eat again or find shelter from the cold. When we allow “the Word” to become part of our own flesh, we are then able to transform not only ourselves, we transform the world...
So on this Christmas Day, accept with gratitude the abiding presence of the Christ child in your own flesh and then, in Him, go into the world to love and serve the Lord.