One thing I was taught in my homiletics courses was “Good homilists borrow, great homilists steal.” I can’t tell you how true this is. There are so many great saints, theologians and thinkers who have gone before us, that we would be crazy not to use their wisdom, even their words.
This homily is a great example. I freely stole from Chris Stephanick of Real life Catholic. You should check this guy out, he is an amazing catechist. The section I borrowed can be found at this youtube link, A Child is Born.
Earlier this month, our president, as he lit the national Christmas tree, had this to say:
“Over these next few weeks, as we celebrate the birth of our Savior, as we retell the story of weary travelers, a star, shepherds, Magi, I hope that we also focus ourselves on the message that this child brought to this Earth some 2,000 years ago — a message that says we have to be our brother’s keepers, our sister’s keepers; that we have to reach out to each other, to forgive each other. To let the light of our good deeds shine for all. To care for the sick, and the hungry, and the downtrodden. And of course, to love one another, even our enemies, and treat one another the way we would want to be treated ourselves.” (-Barak Obama)
I am not a very political man, and these comments have nothing to do with my opinions of Mr. Obama, but I cannot help but see that for most of the world, Christmas has lost it’s meaning. Sure, our good deeds should shine for all, and yes, social justice issues like caring for the sick, feeding the hungry and lifting the downtrodden is important. Yes, we should smile at people we meet and wish them a Merry Christmas, but Jesus did not become man to tell us to behave ourselves and treat one another the way we would want to be treated. These are all good things, and Jesus does indeed call us to good behavior, but morality is NOT the reason for the season. God did not become man so we would be nicer during the holidays.
Instead, Christmas is about God revealing who he really is. In our relativistic culture, everyone seems to want to make up who God is for themselves, as if he were some figment of our imagination instead of a real truth, a real person. We want to give him some attributes, and ignore others. God does not give us this option. In the Incarnation, Jesus Christ, the God-Man, we see exactly who God is, we see him face to face. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict,
“God is not a conclusion we have reached by thinking, which we now offer to others in the certainty of our own perception and understanding. When we talk of the living God, it means this: This God shows Himself to us. He looks out from eternity into time and puts Himself into a relationship with us. We cannot define Him in whatever way we like. He has defined Himself and now stands before us as our Lord, over us and in our midst.” (-Pope Benedict)
So who exactly IS Jesus then?
“Prophetic writings several hundred years before his birth called him Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Father Forever, God with us. He referred to himself as The Way The Truth and The Life. He said I am the resurrection and the life, and he called himself the bread of life.
St. Paul said of him, “In him we live we move and we have our being.” The central claim of Christianity is that God, the maker of the universe, became one of us two millennia ago, not myth, historic fact, that God at one point would fit in one seat in a taxicab, that he would actually in one point of his life fit in a baby seat in that taxicab.
That’s insane, that’s crazy, that is the most radical claim of any faith in human history. At first glance it makes no sense that God would do that. It would make no sense that God would do that, if God were into power like us. It would make absolutely no sense for God to become like one of us, to become poor, helpless, like a little baby if he valued all the same things that fallen humanity values.
You see, when man creates god, we tend to create deities like in ancient Greece, in our image and likeness. We tend to create gods who are into lust and vanity and power. When God revealed himself, he revealed himself to be more than we could have ever hoped for, and yet everything we’re made for. He revealed that he was love. And not just this warm fuzzy feeling love, but a love that’s powerful enough to create space and time. A love we could never be worthy of, but who lays down his life for us anyway.
And if God is love, than God made flesh makes perfect sense. Love would do nothing less than enter our frail humanity with us, as one of us. He didn’t come as some great spirit in the sky, because his goal wasn’t to wow us. His goal was to woo us. He didn’t come as some mighty conquering king who’s going to force us to bow down to him, because he came looking for more than our submission, he came looking for our hearts. When you really think about it, could God be anything less radical, less absurd, less beautiful than the love that we Christians say He is? When you think about it in this light, what we celebrate at Christmas makes perfect sense. In fact, it’s the only thing that does.” (-Chris Stephanick)
This last week of Advent, I encourage you to fill yourself with the holiday spirit. I encourage you to care for those around you, say hello to strangers and to open your hearts in love to all those who touch your life.
But more than all this, I encourage you to open your heart to our Lord Jesus the Christ. I encourage you to look into the manger of the poorest of the poor, and there find the king and creator of the universe. I encourage you to see the risen Lord, present for you now in the Eucharist. Open your hearts to the reality of his presence, and let him transform you into Himself.
His Name is Emmanuel, which means, God with us. Is he with you? Have you room in your heart for Him, or will you send Him to the stable of your life?