Homily – Sunday, the 25th December 2022
Reading: Luke 2
I asked a young person yesterday what would be a relevant theme for a Christmas Day Homily and she suggested, “From Messi to the Messiah.”
The World Cup Football tournament is over. Messi was acclaimed the Messiah
But after the din and buzzle the call of well-meaning people across the world is
Let us return from Messi back to the Messiah
And seek the mysteries of Divine Incarnation.
It is worthwhile taking a look at a well known Christmas story
Kidnapped Santa Claus by L Frank Baum
The story begins thus
“Santa Claus lives in the Laughing Valley, where stands the big, rambling castle in which his toys and gifts are manufactured. His workforce, selected from the ryls, knooks, pixies and fairies, live with him, and everyone is as busy as can be from one year’s end to another.
It is called the Laughing Valley because everything there is happy and gay. The brook chuckles to itself as it leaps rollicking between its green banks; the wind whistles merrily in the trees; the sunbeams dance lightly over the soft grass, and the violets and wild flowers look smilingly up from their green nests.
To laugh one needs to be happy; to be happy one needs to be content. And throughout the Laughing Valley of Santa Claus contentment reigns supreme.
On one side is the mighty Forest of Burzee. At the other side stands the huge mountain that contains the Caves of the Daemons. And between them the Valley lies smiling and peaceful. One would think that our good old Santa Claus, who devotes his days to making children happy, would have no enemies on all the earth; and, as a matter of fact, for a long period of time he encountered nothing but love wherever he might go.
But the Daemons who live in the mountain caves grew to hate Santa Claus very much, and all for the simple reason that he made children happy.
The demons of Selfishness, Hatred, Malice, Envy and interestingly Repentance could not stand Santa ushering in happiness to children and decided to kidnap and imprison him one Christmas eve. Their grievance was that the Children were not interested in their caves because they knew Santa’s gifts were to be shared, to be enjoyed in love, to strengthen bonds of friendship and the nurture of appreciation.
However, the elfs and the rain-deer went ahead and distributed the gifts and then came and rescued Santa.
But that story brings to our attention the reality of these demons and their caves active today
SELFISHNESS- the inability to think beyond us and our close circle of friends
HATRED- that is made manifest in war and violence to interpersonal grudges
ENVY and MALICE that steals our joy and other people’s joy
And today we could sum them in one big demon called INSENSITIVITY
The joy of the Santa is a distant dream to several children across the world today who live in contexts of risk.
It is herein we take a fresh look at the Infancy Narrative once again as we read in Luke
The Choices at the Divine Birth
When human dreams meet with Divine Plans
Then there is a beautiful experience of submitting and surrendering to the plans and purposes of God.
That is what happened in the life of Joseph and Mary.
Their dreams and plans for the future was intercepted by God’s redemptive plan for humanity.
Friends Christmas Day reminds us that there could be sometimes greater and loftier plans of God that could intercept with our personal dreams about the future
The choice is either to resist or to submit
And the unsung chorus of this wonderful couple is simple
Your Will Be Done On Earth As it In Heaven
You Way Lord Not Ours
Your Way Every Way
When human expectations contradict God’s Ways- God Ways Prevail
How would the king of kings and the Lord of Lords be born?
Human expectations would have been high
The Journey- they would never have imagined that of a bumpy donkey back one with no accompanying army or the fanfare and pageantry of royalty
The Space lessness, they would never have imagined knocking at the doors of innkeepers only to be told- sold out, sorry no space
The Manger- They would never have imagined the child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger
The exhausted and vulnerable Mary, the overwhelmed Joseph and the child at the centre- as we see in this 19th century painting
They would never have imagined a tired couple to be nurturing the Savior of the world like this
Human expectations and God’s Ways sometimes meet with each other- God’s Ways prevail
Neither Mary nor Joseph would ever have imagined that we would be talking today two millenia later about that night. Such are the possibilities of God.
It is God identifying with the most vulnerable- the travellers, the spaceless, the paperless and the refugee
They are today around us and among us
The Song and Sign of the Angels
Why did the ordinary chose the Shepherds keeping watch in the night to sing the first carol.
Christmas is for ordinary people, the excluded and the marginalised. It is they who get the priority. Then, now and always.
The experience of the Glory of the Lord- the awesomeness of the Lord has always been an experience that made worship meaningful. When sacred spaces transcend ordinariness the experience turns overwhelming.
And the angel said
Fear Not- This is a consistent theme in the scriptures, especially in the gospel of Luke
Fear Not- is a good theme to look at in the gospel for a thematic study.
The basic question that keeps coming back to us is- What are our fears today?
Whatever they are the message of Christmas is FEAR NOT
And the angels bring
Good Tidings of Great Joy to All Peoples
The Angels reminds that the good tidings of great joy is for all people and ALL means ALL. No one will be excluded.
That has been a consistent message for us through the year
For Unto You
Is Born Today
Another significant theme of Luke is the use of today. This day.
The Manger experience is a today experience. Punctiliar experience.
Unto You is Born Today Luke 2:11
It is not about the past- all that can change in a whimper
Its not about the future- your decisions today will decide the future
Its about the now
Its about the today
In the narrative of Zacchaeus we read
Today I must come to your house 19:5- Not some other time
Today salvation is come into this home 19:9- Not sometime in the future
Then in cock crowing narrative in the passion scene
Before the cock crows today you will deny me thrice Luke 22:34
In the conversation with the thief who repented on the cross
Today you shall be with me in Paradise 23:43
If you would want to take one word from today’s homily it is TODAY
And if you want another word it is SAVIOR
In the city of David- a Saviour who is Christ the Lord
Note the word Savior
That is Christmas in one word
The Sign- Child, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger
What an image of a Savior
The Angels then sing the gloria
Its about Peace
And Peace is what we seek this Christmas time
The Response of the Shepherds
Let us now go to Bethlehem and see for ourselves what the angels had revealed
Hearing about the Messiah and going and meeting the Messiah is not the same
Why are we losing so many people in the faith pilgrimage today?
Why is Jesus not exciting the new generations?
Because Jesus has not yet become their experience
They know about Jesus but not Jesus
They know about the crib of Bethlehem and the crib at the church
Their hearts have not yet become the crib for Jesus
They came with haste
Found Mary and Joseph with the child in the manger
When they had seen- told Mary what they heard
They returned glorifying and praising God
THEY CAME, THEY FOUND, THEY SAW,
THEY SHARED, THEY RETURNED PRAISING GOD
They experienced the new born baby.
The greatest confession is- I acknowledge I have not seen him
The Response of Mary
Mary kept all these things and pondered them in the heart
Sometimes we do not understand what is happening around us
It could be too overwhelming
Too much to bear
We therefore sing
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy
Would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy
Has come to make you new?
This child that you delivered, will soon deliver you
Mary Did You Know
Did you know that your baby boy
Is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
That sleeping child you’re holding is the great, I Am
Mary kept all these things in her heart and pondered over it
That’s all sometimes what we can do seeing whats happening around us
Our Challenge today
We at the special service for Ukraine this week used a powerful poem by Rev. Malcom Guite that helps us relook at the Nativity Narrative
May I conclude with that image from the service.
We think of him as safe beneath the steeple,
Or cosy in a crib beside the font,
But he is with a million displaced people
On the long road of weariness and want.
For even as we sing our final carol
His family is up and on that road,
Fleeing the wrath of someone else’s quarrel,
Glancing behind and shouldering their load.
Whilst Herod rages still from his dark tower
Christ clings to Mary, fingers tightly curled,
The lambs are slaughtered by the men of power,
And death squads spread their curse across the world.
But every Herod dies, and comes alone
To stand before the Lamb upon the throne.
25th December 2022