A Gift that demands a verdict

This is a translation of the Spanish homily I preached.
The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas): Dec. 25, 2013
Mass during the Day
Isa 52:7-10; Ps 98; Heb 1:1-6; John 1:1-18

Merry Christmas, everyone! We are in the midst of a night and a day of celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ! I imagine that most of you have already done much in celebrating, and that you have still more plans to carry out. Here in the parish, we have had 9 days of Posadas, two pageants, and now 10 Masses for Christmas Night and Christmas Day; and how glad I am that you all are here to celebrate together, as we finish them up!

We have been on a journey during all these Masses, as we have gone through three other sets of prayers and readings before this. And what have we seen and done on this journey?

  • At the Vigil Masses last night, we heard about how the angel told St. Joseph that the child in the womb of his betrothed, the Virgin Mary, had been conceived through the Holy Spirit, and that he should not be afraid to take Mary as his wife.
  • Then at Midnight, we heard about how they had to journey to Bethlehem in the final days of her pregnancy. And there was no room for them in the inn, and when she gave birth to her firstborn son, Jesus, they had to lay him in a manger. And we heard about how an angel appeared to shepherds in the fields nearby and told them about how they could find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, who is Christ and Lord.
  • Then at Dawn today, we heard about how the shepherds followed the angel’s instructions and found the baby just as they had been told. And then they left, praising God; and Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

And now we come to the Mass of the Day. Everything has happened; everyone in our Nativity Scene is in place: Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, the angel. What more shall we do? Well, now we take a step back and look at the whole scene. We ask ourselves what we are seeing when we gaze lovingly at the baby Jesus. We ask ourselves what is going on, and what it all means. We join with the Virgin Mary in reflecting on all these things in our hearts.

And in doing so, how appropriate that we hear this first chapter from St. John’s Gospel—since, we remember, our Lord Jesus from the cross entrusted his Mother to St. John; and so it seems quite likely that, when we hear these words from him, we are hearing words influenced by her and the fruit of all that reflecting in her heart.

The first thing that happens here is that the scene gets bigger. Besides the shepherds, the angel, and the Holy Family—we now see another family, the family of the Holy Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And we see another birth—not just the birth of our Lord Jesus according to the flesh in time, in Bethlehem; but his birth from God the Father before all ages, in eternity. As Archbishop Sheen wrote (Life of Christ, p. 25), our Lord Jesus is the only Person in the world Who ever had a prehistory, a prehistory to be studied … in the bosom of the Eternal Father … in the agelessness of eternity.

It is God the Father who has given us the gift of his own Son in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. And this is not a small gift. The Son is all that he has and all that he is. As we heard in the second reading, he is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being.

And why did the Father send him to us? Because we were in darkness. We had been created through him; it is through him that we have existence, and light, and life. But we were lost in darkness, in sin; and so he came to his own, to save us.

And, as we heard, that calls for a response from us. We know that, as the Gospel reading tells us, there are many who do not accept him, who do not believe in him, who do not follow him. And there are those who do.

What is at stake here? Is this just one more beautiful baby being born? Will he be just one more good man, one more teacher, one more prophet? Will his words be just one more opinion that we can set aside? Will his instructions be just one more optional lifestyle that we can embrace or not?

No! He is all these things, but he is much more. He is the only-begotten of the Father; there is no other. He is God-made-man; there is no other. He is the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him. (John 14:6) His words are truth; his commands are authoritative; and he carries both punishment and reward.

And so Christmas is a dangerous feast. It makes demands upon us. We cannot walk away from it unchanged. And yet it is a beautiful feast. We receive grace in place of grace; we receive the power to become children of God. When God the Father sent his Son into the world, he didn’t lose a son; he gained a multitude of sons and daughters, baptized in him; he gained you! You are the happy ending of Christmas!

And so let us say yes to him this Christmas. Let us receive him; let us believe in him; let us see him and know him. And let us live each day in his light.

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