Sunday Sermon for December 25, 2016, The Solemnity of Christmas
Readings: Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18
Today is the celebration of the greatest joy. A baby is born into the world, but it is not the usual kind of birth. We all know the story of the angels rejoicing. This is, in part, because what they had accepted from before time began when the angels were tested has now come to pass: the eternal, infinite, omnipotent God has become a weak human baby born in time with a finite nature. A virgin is a mother; the Creator is created; the Baby is born in a miraculous manner without the normal opening of the womb. There is much to marvel at in this mystery.
However, what we have to marvel at the most is the depth of the love of God for us. So often we struggle with the question of whether or not God really loves us. After all, we have offended Him so often, we have done so many unloving things, that we think ourselves unlovable. So, Love Himself came to us in a way that we could grasp, in a way that is the reflection of love that all of us can automatically understand. When we look at a baby, the child is the tangible, enfleshed love of the mother and father. This Child is no different. He is the love of God in human form because He is God in human form and God is love.
As we continue to consider the ironies of the mystery we celebrate today, we read in the first reading that God brings comfort to His people because He has bared His holy arm. Naturally, one would understand this as God protecting His people with His strength. But the Church gives us this reading today because God’s ways are all too often just the opposite of our ways. So, the baring of God’s holy arm is seen in the Child Who is born in Bethlehem. Just as God told St. Paul, power reaches it perfection in weakness, so that is what we see today.
Throughout His public ministry, Jesus required people to make an act of faith in Him based on what they saw. He did not allow them to see His divinity; the act of faith had to be deeper than what they could grasp with their senses. He requires nothing less today. We see a helpless infant Who is dependent on His mother for all His needs, yet He is holding all creation in place and His mother is dependent on Him for all things. She had to make an act of faith to believe what the angel had revealed to her, now she makes the act of faith that the child born from her is God. He is in love with her as His mother and as His daughter; she is in love with Him as her Son and as her God.
In this mystery we have, as St. Paul explains in the second reading, the full revelation of God. God has shown Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ, so there is nothing further to reveal. All that remains is for us to receive that revelation more and more. This is what happens with any person. When you meet someone and become friends, there is a greater revelation of the self to the other. Each person allows the other deeper into their hearts by opening themselves more to one another. Jesus is a divine Person Who has opened His heart to us; now He waits for us to open our hearts to Him. The more we open up to Him, the more we will come to know Him and love Him. He already knows and loves us completely and His heart is already open wide to us. So the more we open up to Him, the deeper we allow Him into our hearts and, at the same time, we delve deeper into His heart.
Scripture tells us that God dwells in light inaccessible. But in the Gospel reading today we are told that the light came into the darkness. So, the light has become accessible to us. Now we have to ask if we are willing to allow the light to have access to us. The darkness is not the external darkness of the world, but the internal darkness of our hearts. He wants His light to fill our hearts, but we tend to fear this and strive to block it. Thankfully, the darkness is not able to overcome the light because the darkness is a created darkness while the light is an uncreated light. The darkness in finite while the light in infinite.
The Baby born in humility and laid in a manger is calling you. He is the Word that speaks in your heart. Make an act of faith and allow Him access to your heart.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.