Christmas is a feast of great rejoicing (Lk 2: 1-14)
Why do we celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing?
#1: First, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sending us a Savior : God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as God-Man to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindus believe in ten incarnations of God. The purpose of these incarnations is stated in their Holy Scripture, Bagavath Geetha or Song of God. “God incarnates to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” (“Dharma samstaphanarthe sambhavami yuge yuge.”). But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation, and its purpose is given in John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.” We celebrate the Incarnation of God as a baby today as Good News because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin by his suffering, death and Resurrection, and he atoned for our sins. So, every Christmas reminds us that we need a Savior every day, to free us from our evil addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. This Christmas also challenges us to accept Jesus in the manger as our saving God and personal Savior and to surrender our lives to him, allowing him to rule our hearts and lives every day in the New Year
.# 2: Second, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sharing His love with us: Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful and rewarding God and not a judgmental, cruel and punishing God. He demonstrated by his life and teaching how God our Heavenly Father loves us, forgives us, provides for us and rewards us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross to atone for our sins and to make us children of God. Each Christmas reminds us that sharing love with others is our Christian duty, and every time we do that, Jesus is reborn in our lives. Let us face this question, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world and He is not born in my heart?” (Alexander Pope). Hence, let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives, not only during Christmas, but every day, so that he may radiate the light of his presence from within us as sharing and selfless love, expressed in compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and overflowing generosity.
# 3: Third, Christmas is the Feast of the Emmanuel (God living with us and within us): Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is a God who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as the “Emmanuel” announced by the angel to Mary. As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community and in each believer as the Holy Spirit transforms us into “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today. (Fr. Tony) 2018. (L-18)
CHRISTMAS- GOD’S SHARING LOVE AS AN EMMANUEL & SAVIOR (L/18)
Homily starter # 1: Christmas questions answered: 1) Is Christmas the greatest feast celebrated in the Church? The answer is no. Easter is feast No. 1, Pentecost No. 2 and Christmas is No. 3. The Roman Church started its celebration around AD 336, only after Christianity was recognized as the state religion. 2) Was Jesus born on December 25th? The answer is no. Many Fathers of the Church thought that Jesus was born on January 4th, in 4 B.C. before the death of King Herod the Great. Some Bible scholars fix it in the month of September during the Feast of the Tabernacles when people travelled and when the sheep were in the field at night. St. Hippolytus (3rd century AD) affirmed that Christ was born Wednesday, December 25, in the 42nd year of Augustus’ reign. December 25th was fixed by Pope Julius in A.D. 353 as a part of “baptizing” or Christianizing pagan feasts so that the converted pagans might celebrate the birthday of Jesus on Dec 25th instead of celebrating the birthday the Sun-god (Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun) during winter solstice and that the converted Roman soldiers might celebrate Christmas instead the birthday of Mitra, the Roman god-of-virility. 3) Is not Christmas celebration pagan? The name Romans gave to their winter solstice holiday was Saturnalia, named after the pagan deity, Saturn. That night, they would go around from house to house and sing Saturnalia songs, buy and make and wrap presents to pass out to family members and friends, decorate trees and hang lighted candles in covered bags. The Christian Church baptized all these pagan celebrations into Christian ones, giving Christian meaning to them when it converted pagans into Christians. Most of the present-day Christmas decorations like the Christmas tree and Christmas lights, Christmas gifts and Christmas carols are thus remnants of the pagan celebrations. It was Emperor Julianus who declared Christmas as a national holiday in the 6th century. It was St. Francis of Assisi who first introduced the manger or Christmas crib in the 13th century. 3) Where did the name Christmas originate? In medieval times the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass celebrated at midnight on the eve of Christ’s birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a Midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in Middle English as Christes Masse (Christ’s Mass), from which is derived Christmas. It is often abbreviated as Xmas, probably because X or Xt have often been used as a contraction for Christ. The English letter X resembles the Greek letter X (chi), the first letter of Christ in Greek and transliterated as Christos.
# 2: The first Christmas crib: It was St Francis of Assisi who assembled the first crib in a cave on an Italian hillside. It was in 1293 that the first crèche was erected in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve. The crib was ready, hay was brought, the ox and the donkey were led to the spot. Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The aim of St. Francis was to make the Christmas story come alive for the people of the locality. His idea was to show them how close it was to them and their lives. And it seems that he succeeded. On Christmas Eve the friars and the people assembled with candles and torches around the crib. Francis spoke to the people, who were mostly farmers and shepherds, about God’s Son coming among us to teach us that we too are children of God, and that as such we have an eternal destiny. The shepherds and farmers got the messages: God had time for simple folks like them. At the end of the vigil they all returned to their homes, full of peace and joy, feeling very close to God and to one another.
# 3: “Abnormal” birth: After explaining childbirth, the biology teacher asked her 3rd graders to write an essay on “childbirth” in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time, said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research, she asked grandma how she got her mother as a child. Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought your mom as a little baby, and I found her in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how she got her grandma as a baby. “I picked her from a box I found in the gooseberry bush,” said the surprised great-grandma. With this information, the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, “I am very sad to find out that there was not even a single natural birth in our family for three generations… All our children were extraterrestrials.” (Rev. Fairchild). Today the words of Isaiah tell us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth, never before, nor after, seen or experienced, because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior.
# 4: Kierkegaard’s fable of a king who fell in love with a maid: A king fell in love with a poor maid. The king wanted to marry her. When asked, “How shall I declare my love?” his counselors answered, “Your majesty has only to appear in all the glory of your royal raiment before the maid’s humble dwelling and she will instantly fall at your feet and be yours.” But it was precisely that which troubled the king. He wanted her glorification, not his. In return for his love he wanted hers, freely given. Finally, the king realized love’s truth, that freedom for the beloved demanded equality with the beloved. So late one night, after all the counselors of the palace had retired, he slipped out a side door and appeared before the maid’s cottage dressed as a servant to confess his love for her. Clearly, the fable is a Christmas story. God chose to express His love for us humans by becoming one like us. We are called to obey, not God’s power, but God’s love. God wants not submission to his power, but in return for his love, our own.
Additional Christmas messages: 1) We need to remember that God gives us Christmas gift at Every Holy Mass. God’s Christmas gift to us is eternal life through His Son Jesus Christ. He gives us this precious gift every time we participate in Eucharistic celebration. God gives it to us through the powerful Word of God read and preached during the Mass and the life-giving Body and Blood of Jesus given in Holy Communion. It means that at each Holy Mass we are given the grace of growing spiritually in such a way that we become more open to receive the fulness of God’s life.
2) Christmas is the time to practice forgiving love: Christmas really is a time for giving more of ourselves to others. In other words, it is also a time for forgiving – time for giving ourselves to others. It has often been said that to start the year off well, one has to have the slate of life as clean as possible. One cannot tackle another year of work and challenge and relationships with others burdened with guilt. And so, we are told first to forgive ourselves and then to forgive others and pray that others forgive us. So, it’s not just forgiving others, it is forgiving ourselves and asking for forgiveness as well. So, Jesus Christ becoming man is not only a great proof of God’s love to us, but this love is first and foremost, a forgiving type of love, a love that knows no bounds where everybody is welcome and is accepted.
Christmas Jokes: 1) “How many people attend your Church?” one pastor asked another. “Sixty regular, and about three hundred C and E.” “What’s C and E?” the first asked. Came the quick answer: “Christmas and Easter. We call them Poinsettias and Easter Lilies.” 2) Just before Christmas a college professor read the following on an examination paper: “God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.” Across the same paper the professor wrote: “God gets an A; you get an F. Happy New Year.”
3) A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas. A friend of his said, “I thought she wanted one of those sporty 4-Wheel drive vehicles.” “She did,” he replied. “But where in the heck was I gonna find a fake Jeep?” (L/18)
(Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604.)