Parish Calendars

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Homily for Christmas

In our celebration of Christmas, we're presented with a great irony. We've gathered this morning to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the humble surroundings of Bethlehem over 2000 years ago, but the irony of this celebration is that this innocent, sinless infant, this helpless child, came to Earth and was born to redeem guilty, sinful humanity from its sins.

Some of the most beautiful artwork in the history of Christianity was created in reflection on the birth of Christ. Icons, statues, paintings, music, and volumes upon volumes of writings have been dedicated to drawing us closer into the mystery that surrounds Christmas, that the second person of the Trinity would humble himself to take on human flesh and human nature. The amount of material that has been written on the Incarnation of the Lord would probably fill this church and there is still more to be written. Some of the greatest thinkers and artists of all time have pondered on Our Lord's birth, and we are all the richer for the results of their labors.

Even with the beautiful imagery that surrounds Christmas, we would miss the whole point of His life if we were stop our reflection with just His birth. He came to Earth for a reason, and we miss that reason if we focus solely on His Nativity. As the readings today show, we cannot look at the cradle of Our Lord without seeing His Cross. It's not by mistake that the second reading brings up the salvation that Our Lord gained for us through His death on the Cross. From before even the first moment of His existence on Earth, Our Lord's life was dedicated to becoming the Sacrifice that atoned for the sins of humanity. Even with the light from the star which guided the three magi, the shadow of the Cross fell on the manger and followed him throughout his entire life.

Everything Our Lord did and said, especially during his three years of Earthly ministry, was oriented towards our salvation. Even when he was just a infant, having to be smuggled out of Judah for Egypt due to the death sentence placed upon all the infants by King Herod, his life was to be lived in atonement for our sins. The Holy Family's escape to Egypt and later return to Galilee is often seen as Our Lord taking the salvation history of the people of Israel into his own life. Instead of merely participating in the important festivals and rites that commemorated events within Jewish history, Our Lord lived them symbolically through the events of his life.

This provides for us the example of how we need to live our lives as Christians. We need to take on our own salvation, make it an important part of our lives. We need to live every moment as Christians, not just the hour a week or less that we dedicate to Mass attendance. If we truly believed what we profess in the Nicene Creed, we would make our lives conform to our Christian belief, and not the other way around. As the Cross overshadowed Jesus' whole life, it should also overshadow ours as well.

If more Christians were willing to live this way, our world would be dramatically transformed. Through the examples of our lives, people would be flocking to become Christian. Unfortunately, right now much of what non-Christians see of Christianity is the sins of those who profess to believe in Christ. It's not uncommon to turn on a TV show and see the Christian as a hypocrite who publicly professes to follow Christ, but is hiding something contrary to his preaching. While this happens all too often in the real world, the fact that the media has picked up on it should be a warning for us that this is a problem we need to face.

As Christians, we need to recommit ourselves to following Christ, and not worrying about what the world believes. Before we can work on the culture, however, we need to get our own house in order. We need to refocus ourselves on the teachings of Jesus, and make regular reception of the Sacraments a priority in our lives. When we are willing to humble ourselves and commit our lives to the Cross, only then will the world be transformed.

1 comment:

William Newton said...

Hi Father - Happy Christmas to you!

I really took your sermon to heart. Now that the mortal celebrations are winding down, I was reading W.H. Auden's "Christmas Oratorio" and your homily fits it pretty well. So few witnesses He had, and still has today, in this age.