Christmas Day – 2014
Is.52:7-10; Heb.1:1-6; Jn.1: 1-18
After explaining childbirth, the biology teacher asked her 3rd graders to write an essay on “childbirth” in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research she asked grandma how she got her mother as a child.
Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought your mom as a little baby, and I found her in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how she got her grandma as a baby. “I picked her from a box I found in the gooseberry bush,” said the surprised great-grandma.
With this information the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, “I am very sad to find out that there was not even a single natural birth in our family for three generations… All our children were extraterrestrials.”
Today we have a birth that came from the Word. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. The Bible tells us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth, never before, nor after, seen or experienced, because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior.
While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham, and Luke’s genealogy to Adam, John’s genealogy goes back to God Himself. John travels to eternity to reveal to us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful name is the Word.
The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God. The first reading gives us the assurance that, just as Yahweh restored His chosen people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus, the Savior, will restore mankind to the Kingdom of God.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God had conveyed His words to us in the past through His prophets. And now God has sent His own Son, so that He might demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection, the real nature of our God. And John, in the Prologue of his Gospel, introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light. This light will remove the darkness of evil from the world.
John explains later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn.8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt.5:14). John proclaims the Incarnation of God, the most fundamental truth of Christianity in the inspired words of his Prologue. He makes the connection between Jesus Christ and the Logos of God.
John found that, in both Greek and Jewish thought, there existed the concept of the “word.” For the eastern people, words had an independent, power-filled existence. The Greek term for word is Logos which not only means word, but also reason. Hence, whenever the Greeks used Logos, the twin ideas of the Word of God and the Reason of God were in their minds. That is why John introduces Jesus to the Greeks as the eternal, light-giving and creative power of God, or the Mind of God in poetical prose, in the very beginning of his Gospel.
Let me share with you a story about a pair of twins whose resemblance to each other was only in their looks. But they are opposite in every way, one being a bright optimist, and the other a gloom and doom pessimist. Just to see what would happen, to see if anything would change, and so when the family was out, the father had the pessimist son’s room filled with every imaginable toy and game.
The optimist son’s room was however loaded with horse manure. When the family came home, the father waited a while, and then he walked past the pessimist son’s room. He found him sitting with his new toys, but crying bitterly, and the father asked him why. The pessimist son replied: Because my friends would be jealous of my toys, I’ll have to read all the instructions before I can play with them, I’ll constantly need new batteries, and my toys will eventually be broken.
The father sighed, and then he walked past the optimist son’s room. He found him dancing for joy in the pile of horse manure. So the father asked: What are you so happy about? The optimist son answered: Well, I got my Christmas wish; with all this manure, there must be a pony somewhere.
So do you think the father will get him a pony? Sure, why not? Christmas is a time for us to open our eyes to God’s blessings and graces, and to see his greatest gift of love, and that is Jesus. Because with Jesus, we can only look forward for the best, and not fear and prepare for the worst. Because of Jesus, we do not need to worry and fret when things start to crack.
After all, there is a crack in everything. But, that’s how the light gets in. And that’s when Christmas begins. Today our readings concern an appearance. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has appeared to humans. He existed before, but he was not visible to us before. He was completely present, but we were ignorant of his presence, so he became present in a new way: he took a human body and a human soul, a whole human nature, and joined it to his divine person, remaining one person but with two natures.
He did not merely have the appearance of a man, such as if he had appeared fully grown. Then we would say that Jesus Christ appeared like a man. Or we may say like we heard in the story that we found him in the manger when he was a baby. No, he began his human life in the earliest stage of human formation, with a single cell, multiplying into an embryo, growing into a fetus, maturing into a newborn baby.
And that baby grew up and gave us some very hard teachings, teachings about loving one another, about being poor, about suffering. He does this because he wants us to grow up; he is preparing us to live in full maturity, so that we might be heirs according to the hope for eternal life. Jesus Christ first made his appearance in the world 2000 years ago.
Christmas is a day to remember and a day to wait for. Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming. The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him.
We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us. There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness. There’s no room for our human power and prestige. There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and un-forgiven sin.
There’s no room for our prejudice and bigotry. There’s no room for bitterness and greed. There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable human beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so powerfully desires to give us in this Christmas. Amen.