The Nativity of the Lord – Fr. Adam Royal
December 25, 2019 – 11:00 AM
A few years ago I was helping with a bible study on the book of Genesis. The creation story of Genesis ends with a simple claim, on the seventh day God rested. After the work of creating all that exists, God rested and enjoyed his work. One of the participants in the class immediately asked, “Did he ever start working again?” To my shame (discredit?), I dismissed the question and, in effect, the person who asked it. Of course God started working again. Rest is simply a metaphor. But this question wouldn’t allow me to rest. It kept coming back, it haunted me. Because it is actually a profound question. Look at the world around us. It is filled with poverty, violence, hatred, and war. How can we believe that God is working in the world?
There is no simple answer to this question. In fact we do not have a complete answer to this question. But we do have the beginnings of an answer, Christmas, the incarnation. We have the promise that we are not alone, that we are not alone in our sufferings. We have not been abandoned. God is with us. Seeing our sufferings and sadness God choose to be born as one of us. He chose to live with us and experience our lives. We suffer because of our freedom, our freedom to choose hatred over love, revenge over mercy. And God, by his free choice, suffers with us, he pays the price of our sins for us and with us. He embraces all of our pains so that he may bring us healing. Where ever we are in life God is with us and he has left us the sacraments to fulfill his work in us.
To restore us to himself and tear down the barrier that separates us, God gives us baptism. To satisfy our hunger, and thirst, and strengthen us to imitate him God gives us the Eucharist, his very flesh to eat. To cleanse us of our sins, to place us back on the right path after we have become lost, and to teach us the depths of his love and mercy God gives us confession, the sacrament of penance. To make our ordinary lives holy and teach us endurance and self-less love he gives us the sacrament of marriage. To comfort us as we face the frailty of our bodies and the reality of our mortality he gives us the anointing of the sick. No matter where we are in our lives, no matter our choices up to that moment, no matter how deep the darkness in which we walk God is with us. This is the message of Christmas.
We have not been abandoned to the darkness, Jesus the light of the world has come to us. The true light, which enlightens everyone, has come into the world. He wants to share our lives with us and he wants us to share in his life. Jesus, as we proclaim in the creed every Sunday, is light from light true God from true God. He has come into the world to be our light but he has also come to make us light. God has seen the darkness we live in, he has seen our sufferings, and he has experienced them with us. And he has conquered them. Now we are called to conquer with him. God did not come into the world simply to pity us or to put his arm around us while we suffer. He came to lift us up. He came to remake us, to make us the light of the world and help us overcome the darkness.
The Good News, the message of the Gospel, and the message of Christmas are that God himself came into our world two-thousand years ago and he will never leave us. Through baptism he unites each of us to himself, he makes us his very body and through us remains bodily present to every age. We are the body of Christ, the body of God. So it is time we acted like it. We have experienced reconciliation with God through baptism, so let us go out and reconcile others, making peace. We have fed on the body of Christ, so let us go out and feed the hungry. We have been forgiven by God and experienced the depths of his mercy, so let us go out and forgive. Let us show the world the infinite mercy of our God.
Through the grace of God we are the light of the world and the world is desperately in need of this light.