Friday, December 25, 2015

The Child of Hope

[Audio recording of the homily HERE]

Every time a child is born into the world, the world is permanently and irrevocably changed because of the presence of this new child. A new child always represents promise. A new child always represents hope for the future. A new child makes us think that just maybe this world is bigger than my own view of it, that maybe everything is going to be ok after all.

On this most holy night so long ago, the world changed once again because a child was born. To those on the outside, this child looked like any other, and so they moved on. A new child should represent hope, and we should respond with joy, but with eyes dimmed by sin we often respond with tragic indifference to hope in the world. In fact, to those on the outside, without the eyes of faith, this child born so long ago may have represented a burden. Born to homeless immigrant parents in questionable circumstances, those without the eyes of faith could easily see in this child nothing more than just another burden, another mouth to feed, another drain on society.

But, to those with the eyes to see, this child represented hope like no child before or since. This child represented the fulfillment of a promise made by a God to his people so long ago, a promise to deliver them from the domain of sin and death and return them to himself. The rich and the powerful couldn't see such promise in this child. But the lowly did. The young couple to whom he was entrusted, they recognized the promise. Shepherds faithfully watching their flocks, representing the watchful ones of Israel, they recognized the promise when the angel of the Lord announced it to them, and so they came to adore. Wise men from the east, who were given a message they could understand in form of the star, they recognized the promise, and so they traveled far to worship this new child.

The parents, the shepherds, the wise men, each in their own way recognized that his new child represented a new hope for fallen humanity. Before the birth of Jesus, humanity, all of mankind, was under the domain of the ancient foe that seduced our first parents so long ago. But because we have a Father who loved us even in our sin, that situation, that tragic separation of the children from the Father, could not stand. So out of the love that is the essence of the Most Holy Trinity, God became man and the devil's stranglehold on humanity was broken because the evil one couldn't ensnare the Most Holy One.

So while on the surface we see a manger, shepherds, and a silent night, the eyes of faith help us to see that that isn't the whole story. Hidden from human eyes, a battle was raging for the fate of humanity. The devil fought hard to keep humanity under his power. He saw the Father's plan to send a Redeemer and he knew that Redeemer would ultimately defeat him. But the love of God won out over the hatred of the devil, and so a child was born this night.

And now, the message that a Savior has been born to us has gone out to all the world. This message has toppled empires and converted millions. This message, that God became man, has been the pivotal message of humanity for two thousand years. Since that night in Bethlehem so long ago, whether you accept or reject this baby as God has become the primary factor to unite and divide humanity ever since. And yet, it has remained a message from the humble, for the humble. For this child wasn't born among the poor merely because of social circumstances, but because it was the very Will of of the Almighty and Eternal Father that it should happen this way. Kings and rulers can usurp the message of Jesus and exploit it to their own ends, but it remains a message of the little ones.

And so in order to participate in God's plan of salvation and love, we have to take the path of the humble. John's gospel tells us that Jesus came to the world, but the world did not know him. He came to his own people, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who do accept him, he gives power to become children of God. So we cannot approach him with any sort of power or authority, claiming to know who this God-man is or what he wants. We approach him with humility and wonder, like the shepherds, like the wise men, in order to offer him what poor gifts we have. For us, it is not gold, frankincense or myrrh that we bring, but attentive ears, a trusting heart, and an obedient will.

We draw near to the newborn Savior by drawing near to those who are most like him: helpless children, the poor, the marginalized. Jesus, the Savior of humanity, was born into a family in order to teach us the importance of family as well. And so we draw near to the newborn Savior by loving the family which God has entrusted to us. Through these things, through these most important of people in our lives, we come to recognize the awesome hope that was born two thousand years ago, and by loving these people we love the Savior himself and we live in the hope he represents. To one and all, a very blessed Christmas to you.

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