Christmas Year C – 2015
All of the shopping, all of the rushing about, all of the busy-ness of Christmas is now over. Today the streets are deserted. A quiet and peaceful stillness lays over all. Now the religious meaning of Christmas is allowed to emerge from beneath all of the mall music, the shopping, and the frantic preparations for this day.
But to what do we turn our attention? To peace on earth toward men of good will? Yes, and something more. To the sharing of love with family? Yes, and something more. To joining together with the ones, we love? Yes, but more.
Christmas is more than having a lovely time, more than family sharing, more than the so-called “happy holidays.” We celebrate today what so many are looking for. We focus our attention today on that which will give peace to many who are lonely, uneasy with themselves, and who are searching for meaning in their lives.
The centerpiece of the Mass, the essence of Catholicism, and the core of our belief is what we consider today. The only essential and ultimately important reality is the joining of humanity with divinity. This joinder is the genius of Christianity and the core of Catholic devotion.
It is that which unites liberal and conservative, saint and sinner, European and American, black and white. God and man at table are sat down. The birth of Jesus Christ is not the birth of one religious prophet among many, one founder of a religion among many, the birth of one good man among many others. It is rather the stupendous joining of humanity with divinity.
An elderly man in Oklahoma calls his son in New York just a few days before Christmas and says, “I hate to ruin your day son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce; 45 years of marriage… and that much misery is enough!” “Dad, what are you talking about?” the son yells.
“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old dad explained. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Hong Kong and tell her!”. Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.
“Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.” She calls her elderly father immediately, and screams at him, “You are not getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow.
Until then, don’t do a thing, you hear me?” she yelled as she hung up the phone. The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay dear”, he says, “it’s all set. They’re both coming for Christmas and paying their own air-fare.”
We celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing for three reasons. First, it is the birthday of our God who became man and Savior to save us from our sins. Second, it is the birthday of a God who came to share His love with us and third, it is the anniversary of the day when Almighty God came to live with us as Emmanuel.
First of all, Christmas is the feast of God’s sending us a Savior. Jesus, the Incarnation of God as man, came to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindu Scriptures in India describe ten incarnations of God.
The purpose of these incarnations is stated in their Holy Scripture, Bagavath Geetha or Song of God. “God incarnates to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large scale erosion of moral values.”
But the Christian Scriptures teach that there was one and only one Incarnation of God, the purpose of which is stated in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he sent His Only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life.”
We celebrate that Incarnation today as Good News because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus atoned for our sins and liberated us from slavery to sin by his suffering, death and Resurrection.
Every Christmas reminds us that we still need this Savior to be reborn in our hearts and to live there, for we need him every day to free us from our evil habits, addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies.
Hence, Christmas challenges us to accept Jesus as our Lord God and personal Savior and to surrender our sinful lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our lives. Before I go to the 2nd point:
A little girl climbed onto Santa’s lap, Santa asked the usual, “And what would you like for Christmas?” The child stared at him open mouthed and horrified for a minute, then gasped: “Didn’t you get my E-mail?”
Second, Christmas is the feast of God’s sharing His love with us. Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful and rewarding God who wants to save us through His Son Jesus and that God is not a judgmental, cruel and punishing God, as Satan presented God to Adam and Eve.
Jesus demonstrated by his life and teaching how God, our Heavenly Father, loves us, forgives us and provides for us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Christmas reminds us that we have to allow this God of unconditional love to be reborn in us and to start living in us. Let us accept the challenge given by the famous poet, Alexander Pope, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world, and He is not born in my heart?”
Let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives today and every day, and let us allow him to radiate his light around us as sharing and selfless love, compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and overflowing generosity.
Third, Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel, i.e., God living with us and within us. Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is God-with-us, Emmanuel, who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as announced by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary.
The Christmas story tells us that there is a way out of our sinfulness and hopelessness because God is with us. We are not alone. There is a mighty God within us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and temptations.
As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Holy Bible, in the praying community and in each believer, with the Holy Spirit Who is transforming us daily into the “Temples of the Holy Spirit.”
Hence, each Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of our incarnate God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to others around us by loving others as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service.
Sharing with others Jesus, Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give to, or receive from, others. And so we celebrate today the fact that just as God came to the Garden of Eden to search out Adam and Eve, so also did He come to us in Jesus Christ to search us out and fill us with God’s Holy Spirit.
And we celebrate the stupendous reality that He comes to us in every Holy Communion to be made flesh in your flesh, and so mingle His blood with yours and thus to search out and enter into your heart.
This is God’s Christmas gift to you. What will you give to Him? Hopefully we will give Him the gift of ourselves and our love. Amen.