Solemnity of the Nativity
of the Lord
A Homily - Cycle B - 2011-2012
by Fr. Luke Dundon
First Reading Isaiah 52:7-10
Responsorial Psalm Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
Second Reading Hebrews 1:1-6
Gospel John 1:1-18
John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; and light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.
But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'" From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side, has revealed him.
It’s a blessing to be with you all on this Christmas morning, with family and friends from all over!
However, 2,000 years ago, a young couple from Nazareth had no other family or friends nearby to support them as the time came to deliver their child. God himself was born into a household surrounded by barn animals and straw. Instead of being surrounded by family and friends, shepherds came by with their rags and less than beautiful sheep. The Almighty was born for us …and no one even knew it, except a few lowly shepherds! God’s coming among us was completely beyond our expectations or imaginings – the passage we just heard from John’s Gospel reflects how amazing this event was. Instead of painting the traditional Nativity Story that we all know from Matthew and Luke, John composes more of a poem, about the Word which is God. What are we to take from this?
In order to better appreciate this poetry, I’d like to use more poetry, a Christmas carol that we’ve sung since our childhood. We’ll start with the first stanza:
Said the night wind to the little lamb, do you see what I see? Way up in the sky little lamb, do you see what I see? A Star, a star, dancing in the night; with a tail as big as a kite, with a tail as big as a kite.
A star, dancing in the night – a light, a light that cannot be overcome by darkness, which has a life of its own and gives life to others, is noticed not by the mighty and most learned, but rather by a little lamb, simple and pure. What does the little lamb do? Hear the second stanza:
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear? Ringing through the sky shepherd boy, do you hear what I hear? A song, a song, high above the trees; with a voice as big as the sea, with a voice as big as the sea.
The lamb feels compelled to spread the good news about this new-found light to a simple shepherd boy. The lamb, like John the Baptist in today’s Gospel, wants to testify to the light, to share its warmth with this shepherd boy, and how does he describe it? He describes a Song, with a voice, as big as the sea – definitely a spoken Word, a Word that has always been since the very beginning, a Word that is worth listening to, because it is the Word of God Himself. As so we listen to the third stanza for what this voice has to say:
Said the shepherd boy to the might king, do you know what I know? In your palace walls O might king, do you know what I know? A child, a child, shivers in the cold, let us bring him silver and gold, let us bring him silver and gold.
Lowly and mighty alike never expected this Word, this mighty Word, which has come to us, not as a mighty King on a throne, but as a child lying in a manger. And so indeed, the Word became Flesh, born of the Virgin Mary, making his dwelling among us, in a little stable in Bethlehem. This is such a profound and amazing truth, a mystery so central to our Faith, that when we profess the Creed, we will genuflect today at the words, “and by the Holy Spirit was Incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” Why did he become man? Listen to the shepherd boy’s King tell us:
Said the king to the people everywhere, Listen to what I say! Pray for peace people everywhere, Listen to what I say! A child, a child, sleeping in the night, He will bring us goodness and light, he will bring us goodness and light.
The Word became man, so that He could bring us goodness and light! In the quiet peace of night, the font and source of all peace has been born, the Son of God himself has entered our time. Before, God spoke through His messengers – now He speaks to us directly, through His Son, because His Son is one of us now.
Thanks be to God for John’s Gospel, for in it, we see the wondrous beauty and meaning behind the Nativity Scenes painted on Christmas cards and in our homes. In it we see how God has sent his only Son, who is light and life, into a world that suffers from darkness and death. Why would God send us His son, if not for the fact that the fact that He desires a new relationship with us? Here in our church, the Word that existed from the beginning, the Word that is God, is still proclaimed every day here at this pulpit. At this altar at every Mass, the Word is made Flesh, the Son of God comes to us in his humanity, sacramentally present in the Holy Eucharist, so that we can be united with Him in Holy Communion. You won’t find such a Christmas gift anywhere else… a Christmas gift which is given, every Sunday of the year!
And that’s not all. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was made Flesh… and Dwelt among us. God as man, Jesus Himself, dwells among us still in every tabernacle around the world. When we come to Church to pray, we are before the same person who slept in a manger, the same person who changed bread and wine into his body and blood, the same person who hung and died on a cross for us, now present in the tabernacle, for us. Christ became man to save us from darkness and death, thus essentially restoring friendship between God and man. He started out small, so he could fit into our own hearts and make them ever larger like His own. Because Jesus became man, man can be united again with Jesus’ Father, now our Father. The Son of God became man, so that man could become a Son of God and we have only begun to realize this! This is a friendship that never dies, this is indeed a friendship that transforms us at our deepest core and makes us Sons and Daughters of God. This is why, according to John’s Gospel, the Word was Made Flesh – we are now children of the Almighty, thanks to the babe lying in the manger.
So, on this day we celebrate the birthday of a friend unlike any other we have ever had or will ever have. He was born into the cold of night to illuminate our darkness and save us from death, by His own suffering and death on the cross. A Dundon Family Christmas movie favorite helps to illustrate this amazing friendship, a movie with a much older Jimmy Stewart, who plays an elderly and day-dreaming custodian of an apartment building. In one of his daydreams he’s imagining that he’s in Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus. He approaches the manger, and upon recognizing Christ before him, he fumbles with words, yet manages to exclaim, “You’re my closest, my finest friend. And that means that I can hold my head high, wherever I go.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” So, when we behold Jesus in the manger, when we receive Him in Holy Communion, when we sing our Christmas carols with family and friends, may our hearts on this wondrous day sing out with two words – Thank you, Thank you.