Christmas: A thematic homily: Lk 2: 1-14: One-page synopsis: We celebrate Christmas with a lot of rejoicing for three reasons:
# 1: First, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sending us a Savior: God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as God-Man to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindu Scriptures describe ten incarnations of God, “to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation, and its purpose is given 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 the Incarnation of God in a baby today as good news because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin by His suffering, death and Resurrection, and, so, atoned for our sins. Each Christmas then, reminds us that we need a Savior every day to free us from our evil addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. Each Christmas also challenges us to accept Jesus in the manger as our saving God and personal Savior and to surrender our lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our hearts and lives every day in the New Year.
# 2: 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 and not a judging, cruel and punishing God. Jesus demonstrated by his life and teaching how God, our Heavenly Father, loves us, forgives us, provides for us and rewards us. All Jesus’ miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross to atone for our sins and to make us children of God. Each Christmas reminds us that sharing love with others is our Christian duty, and every time we do that, Jesus is reborn in our lives. Let us face this question, “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?”(Alexander Pope). Hence, let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives, not only during Christmas but every day, so that he may radiate the light of his presence from within us as sharing and selfless love, expressed in compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and overflowing generosity.
# 3: Third, Christmas is the Feast of the Emmanuel (God living with us and
within us): Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is a God who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as the “Emmanuel” announced by the angel to Mary. As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community and in each believer as the Holy Spirit transforms us into “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them 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, or receive, today. (Fr. Tony) L-15
CHRISTMAS- GOD’S SHARING LOVE AS EMMANUEL and SAVIOR
Homily starter 1) Summarizing theology into one sentence: Karl Barth, one of the great Protestant theologians was asked to be a guest lecturer at the University of Chicago Divinity School. At the end of a captivating closing lecture, the president of the seminary announced that Dr. Barth was not well and was quite tired. “Therefore, I will ask just one question on behalf of all of us.” He turned to the renowned theologian and asked, “Of all the theological insights you have ever had, which do you consider to be the greatest of them all?” It was the perfect question for a man who had written literally tens of thousands of pages of some of the most sophisticated theology ever put into print. Karl Barth closed his tired eyes, and he thought for a minute, and then he half smiled, opened his eyes, and said to those young seminarians, “The greatest theological insight that I have ever had is this: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Christmas is the celebration of this great Divine love for us sinful humans. (Rev. Bill Adams)
2) Abnormal birth: 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.” (Rev. Fairchild). Today the words of Isaiah tell 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.
3) The first Christmas crib: It was St Francis of Assisi who assembled the first crib in a cave on an Italian hillside. It was in 1293 that the first crèche was set up in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve. The crib was ready, hay was brought, the ox and the donkey were led to the spot. Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The aim of St. Francis was to make the Christmas story come alive for the people of the locality. His idea was to show them how close it was to them and their lives. And it seems that he succeeded. On Christmas Eve, the friars and the people assembled with candles and torches around the crib. Francis spoke to the people, who were mostly farmers and shepherds, about God’s Son coming among us to teach us that we too are children of God and that as such we have an eternal destiny. The shepherds and farmers got the messages: God had time for simple folks like them. At the end of the vigil they all returned to their homes, full of peace and joy, feeling very close to God and to one another. ()
4) The “Sign” of the President: Let’s suppose that you have just come to America from another country. You know that our chief executive is called the President, but you don’t know who he is or where he lives. You’d like to meet him if you could but you don’t know where to find him. When you ask for help, I tell you something like this. “Go to Washington and look for a large building called the White House. Look for a plane called Air Force One. Listen for a band playing ‘Hail to the Chief.’ When you see a man coming out of the White House surrounded by police officers and plainclothes detectives, that’s the sign that you’ve found the President. You’ll know for sure when you see him get in the Presidential helicopter and fly away. He’s not hard to spot because he’s always surrounded by cameras and reporters.” The “sign” of the President is the pomp, ceremony, security, and publicity that surround him wherever he goes. And what is the “sign” that an heir has been born to the throne of England? The answer is: Look on the cover of People magazine and you will see a picture of Prince William. That is the sign. And read the gossip columns. That’s part of the sign too. And what sign did God choose to signify his coming to the earth? He chose a baby wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger. The early Church Father. St. John Chrysostom, called it “a tremendous and wonderful sign.” He referred to I Timothy 3:16, which tells us, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.”
Introduction: We celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing for three reasons. 1) It is the birthday of our God who became man and Savior to save us from our sins. 2) It is the birthday of a God who came to share His love with us and 3) 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” (“Dharma samstaphanarthe sambhavami yuge yuge.”). 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 every one 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 our as our Lord God and personal Savior and to surrender our sinful lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our lives.
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.
1) “How many people attend your Church?” one pastor asked another. “Sixty regular, and about three hundred C and E.” “What’s C and E?” the first asked. Came the quick answer: “Christmas and Easter. We call them Poinsettias and Easter Lilies.”
2) Just before Christmas a college professor read the following on an examination paper: “God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.” Across the same paper the professor wrote: “God gets an A; you get an F. Happy New Year.”
3) A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas. A friend of his said, “I thought she wanted one of those sporty 4-Wheel drive vehicles.” “She did,” he replied. “But where in the heck was I gonna find a fake Jeep?”
4) “Your mother and I are getting a divorce”: An elderly man in Oklahoma calls his son in New York 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”, he says, “it’s all set. They’re both coming for Christmas and paying their own air-fare.”
5) “Didn’t You Get My E-Mail?” As 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?”