The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
(Isaiah 9:1-3.5-6; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14)
The sign revealed more than it said. It was written with little Christmas lights and positioned in front of a corner house. “Happy Birthday, Jesus,” was the wording. Obviously, the homeowners wanted to counteract the secularization of Christmas. But perhaps they missed the point of the Christian feast.
Christmas celebrates much more than the birthday of Jesus of Nazareth. Thinking of the feast in this way domesticates Jesus. It makes him seem like good old Uncle Bill whom we should honor with a dinner party. But the celebration should be much greater than that. Christmas represents the coming of the Savior. Christians have been waiting not so much patiently as painfully for his arrival. In the Middle East they have been victimized by Islamist brutality. In all parts they have been subjugated by pride, lust, and greed – their own as much as others’. Now the Lord is here to defeat these powers. More than a birthday party, the rejoicing should be as great as the jubilation felt by Jewish inmates of Nazi concentration camps as the Allied soldiers liberated them.
It is true that Jesus in today’s gospel is portrayed as the child of a poor family. He lays in a manger with only Mary and Joseph noticing. But then the heavens open and angels reveal his true stature. He is “Christ and Lord.” God has come to earth to once and for all establish His kingdom of justice and peace.
We must take care not to domesticate Jesus. We must not treat him like just another member of the family whom we might ignore if we are tired or upset. We must not let ourselves say to him, “Nice to see you, Jesus. Would you excuse me? I don’t feel very well.”
Rather we should hunger to talk with him. We should strive to please him by everything we say, do, and think. Now that he has arrived, we should announce a grand jubilee. This means that we ask pardon of those that we have offended and pray for those who have hurt us. He is here. A new age has begun. It is time for us to begin a new way of life. Now and forevermore is the moment to imitate his goodness.