25 Dec 19 The Nativity of the Lord,
Is 52:7-10; Ps 98:1-6; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18
Sing! Break into song! Sing praise! No less than six times does the Psalmist summon us and all the nations, and all the ends of the earth, to sing joyfully to the LORD. We have every reason to sing and shout for the LORD has revealed his justice and made his salvation known in the sight of the nations. We cannot hold back the songs. Even during the years of war against Christmas, even in our so-called secular society, we cannot hold back the Christmas Songs. Advertising, political candidates, people on the streets are spreading the season’s greetings. Christmas Carols abound all around us; they are on the lips of believers and non-believers alike. Is it any wonder that the Aggressive Secularists are so adamant about little things like “happy holidays” and no public nativity scenes and no “Christmas trees, or Christmas anything for that matter? These little things bother them because they are so powerful that they survive even after people have let their faith diminish and even disappear. The songs and the celebrations of Christmas keep alive the memory, sometimes unconscious, of the birth of Christ the Lord. Though some may be unconscious about all the singing and celebrating, the LORD remembers his faithfulness and love for the House of Israel. This is our reason for the season that God Remembers. Yes, the LORD has remembered his promise to save us and in the sight of all the nations he has bared his holy arm and to the ends of the earth he has shown forth his power to save. All through history the LORD has reminded his people of his faithfulness through the Prophets and in these last days he has made that faithfulness incarnate in his Eternal Word, his Eternal Son becoming flesh and making his dwelling among us. Can there be any better reason to sing and shout for joy?
At the very beginning of Advent the Prophet Isaiah offers us a word of comfort, “Give comfort to my people, says the Lord!” Again today we hear the same message from Isaiah, “For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem.” This is a timeless message from on high. We still need the comfort only the Lord can give. We still need to hear glad tidings, announcements of peace, good news of salvation. We still need to hear what our faith filled ancestors needed to hear. We need to hear, “Your God is King!” Only when God is the sovereign ruler of every human heart, and of every nation on earth, only then will we live together in peace. When anyone else is king or anything else is sovereign we are lawless; our desires and plans become more important than everything else. We are slaves to what we want and when we want it. Nothing and no one can hold up any boundaries for our plans or desires. Out of such chaos we cannot come by our own power. We are powerless to redeem ourselves. We need to catch a glimpse of the Lord’s bare arm restoring our human dignity and his peaceful kingdom in our midst. No wonder the sentinels are the prophets, and no wonder they have beautiful feet for they have had a glimpse of the future that Christmas allows us to see. Indeed, our future glory has begun in the birth of Emmanuel. The LORD our God is restoring, redeeming, and renewing his people so that the whole world will know His saving power.
It seems that early on in the history of our church that the angels became too important. In an effort to help the faithful grow in confidence about the presence and power of the LORD to save us, the concept of the angels began to compete with the Son of God. This issue is dealt with in the important teaching of the Letter to the Hebrews. The Jewish people had heard the voice of the Lord through his holy prophets and in the New Covenant they experienced the gift of prophecy and the ministry of the angelic messengers. However, it is the definitive word spoken through His Son, Jesus Christ, that is our source of purification from sin. He, the Eternal Son, is the one through whom God created the universe; He is the refulgence of his glory; He is the imprint of his being; He sustains all things by his mighty word. The unity of being between the Father and the Son is the source of our Christmas Joy. The unity of will between the Father and the Son is the source of our Salvation. This newborn King of Glory sits at the right hand of the Majesty; He is far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than all the angels put together. The Letter to the Hebrews uses a familiar Psalm to complete the argument: No angel has ever been called, “my son” by Abba. Never has Abba revealed that he is father to any angel. Finally, when Abba leads his eternally begotten son into the world He commands all the angels to worship him, the King of Angels. It is their song that sparks all our Christmas Songs, and it is their singing and the many songs of faith from the earliest days that makes available the teaching of the church about the mystery of the Eternal Son who became the Son of Mary.
The Evangelist, Saint John, speaks of himself and the apostolic community when he writes, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.” In history and among those Saint John knew and loved he saw the glory of the Only Son, Jesus Christ. Because this Son is full of grace and truth, we who have heard the testimony of the Apostles have become full of grace and truth. We have been granted the sheer grace of mercy, the forgiveness of our sins. We have come to know the One True God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; we know him as he is because he has revealed himself as he is. We who believe in his name; we were born not by natural generation nor by man’s choice and decision, but by the power and purpose of God. As the liturgy’s reflection upon the mystery of Christmas has matured to the Forth Gospel, we have moved from historical details pointing to the great mysteries to the great mysteries encompassing historical details. In what has been called the Prologue of Saint John we see him repeating this idea, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is the full flowering of the Synoptic tradition and the core teaching of the Apostles. The Word that leapt from the womb of the Father in the blazing fire of the Holy Spirit who overshadowed the Virgin, is Jesus The Christ, the newborn King of Israel and the eternal King of Angels. He is the one we worship in his humanity and in his divinity. He is truly worthy of our worship, and in him, we live an move and have our being, now and unto the ages of ages. In the full light of Christmas Day we have seen his glory and this glory has moved us from glory to glory. Indeed, we are saturated with his glorious light and our darkened world does not overcome the light we are in Christ and in the Holy Spirit.