CACINA

Homily for Christmas (Mass During the Night), Year A 2013-14

Posted in christian, Christianity, church events, ecclesiology, ethics, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on December 21, 2013

Homily for Christmas, the Nativity of the Lord, (Mass During the Night) Year A  2013-14

[Bishop Stephens’ first collection of Year A homilies may be purchased in e-book format at amazon.com.  It is called Teaching the Church Year]

Our beautiful first reading tonight has been made familiar to many of us from Handel’s Messiah. Of all of the prophecies of Isaiah, this has to stand out as singularly the most hopeful, optimistic, and inspiring. It starts with the archetypal fear of the dark being released by the coming of light. It is archetypal because it is one of the earliest fears of childhood and often remains with us through adulthood.  We just can’t see when it is dark, and we don’t know when we will stumble or what is around the corner. Isaiah says that before the Messiah, the people lived in a land of darkness because they had been cut off from the God for whom they were created. With the birth of this child, this son, Isaiah sees many things happening. First of all, there is a great light and that light shines on the people – allows them to see again, allows them to be with their God again. The nation will grow in size, and they will be as happy as farmers are at the end of the harvest when their work is done and the food has been put away. Or as happy as plunderers or pirates, when they divide up the spoils of their enemies. The nation is no longer yoked, tied down to the burdens of life.

No, we have a child who is born – a simple child who will rule, but not like authoritarian rulers – no, authority rests on his shoulders. And he will be a ruler who brings peace and will rule with justice and righteousness. As we know from our readings of the New Testament, these are the two keywords of the new kingdom Jesus opens to us. And finally we have that majestic list  of other names for this simple babe: Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!  And the prophecy closes with the promise that this child shall establish his kingdom now and forevermore. And why does it happen? Because of the zeal of the Lord of hosts. If we look up the word zeal which Isaiah uses to describe the passion of God – zeal – we get a sense of what this entails: ardor, love, fervor, fire, enthusiasm, eagerness, gusto and energy. So great is our God’s love and enthusiasm for us that God sent the only Son, yet himself, and took on a human being’s nature, became the simple baby. Divested of power, a God needing food, change of diapers, burping, loving. He did this for us!

St. Paul seconds these joyous facts when he says: …Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” And there is the word “zeal” again, but this time applied to us. God is zealous so that we might be zealous for good deeds.

The Gospel today is one that is familiar to all of us from childhood, so familiar that we might not really hear the words. In his Gospel, Luke creates a story that makes the theological points we have just been making accessible to ordinary people. Like Jesus, Luke tells stories. The “facts” of this story may or may not be completely true, but the point that he is trying to make is: God became a child, a child born in poverty with no place to rest his head, a child who is destined to be the Savior of the world! And the earth and heavens proclaim on this day: Glory to God, peace on earth, good news of great joy, for all the people!

Luke picks up on the magnificent themes of Isaiah – the light theme with The glory of the Lord shone around them”; the Prince of Peace theme with “peace among those whom he favors”; the Mighty God theme, with “Glory to God in the highest; and the Rejoicing theme, with “good news of great joy for all the people.

We have been preparing for this day for four weeks, and yes, it comes every year, but it seems to me as I grow older, that every year it can become more special as we pile on the memories of celebrating this day with people we love, by growing in our understanding so that the story becomes a stepping board to what is really being celebrated, by realizing what a wonderful, happy thing our relationship with God should be, and by being led, as Paul says, to being zealous for good deeds, as we carry some of the zeal of God’s love from ourselves to others.

Human beings need holidays and celebrations as a break from our routines. And I know there are some people for whom Christmas has bad memories and others who are disturbed by the commercialism of it all. We need to see Christmas as the joyous, hopeful feast it is. The days are starting to get longer, there will more physical light, but the light that shines in our hearts is the most important one. Try to live the Christmas message of Luke: share the peace, the joy, the thankfulness that Luke was trying to invoke in his writing. I think he did a pretty good job of it – and that, too, is my Good News for this Christmas night.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Auxiliary Bishop of Holy Trinity Diocese

Of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

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