Malankara World

Christmas Sermon - The Birthday of Jesus

Homily: The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle

Bethlehem. The City of David. It seems so far away from us, but it is not really all that far removed from us. It is here in our midst this night as we hear the words of the angels, "For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord" (Luke 2:11).

This truly is "good news of great joy," for it means that in this holy Child born of the Virgin that "God has visited his people" (Luke 2:10; Luke 7:16). Can this really be? It is a wondrous and astounding greeting the angels bring to us; is it true? Surely this question was found in the thoughts of those shepherds.

When the angels left them, the shepherds "said to one another, ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place" (Luke 2:15).

Dear brothers and sisters, this night we, too, have gone to Bethlehem, for "today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). We, too, have gone to see what the shepherds saw, to behold the Child whom Mary wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger (cf. Luke 2:7).

What wondrous love is this! "The grace of God has appeared" (Titus 2:11)! Tonight we see "the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good" (Titus 2:13-14).

This night a savior is born for us, he who is Emmanuel (cf. Matthew 1:23). God is with us! He is not far from us, but here in our midst. The Creator of all things has made himself a creature and entered his creation. This is a message that cannot leave us indifferent. If it is true, it changes everything. If it is true, it also affects me. Like the shepherds, then, I too must say: Come on, I want to go to Bethlehem to see the Word that occurred there.

If we go to Bethlehem, we, too, will see the Christ Child. We, too, will be invited to receive him, to worship him, to love him.

The shepherds recognized the truth of the angels greeting because they saw the promised sign: "you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger" (Luke 2:12). The sign given them is nothing spectacular or miraculous, but a sign of the mysterious humility of God. God makes himself small; he makes himself an infant so that we might touch him and give our love to him.

It is such a simple sign and yet one that the shepherds "went in haste to see" (Luke 2:16). Abandoning everything they went in search of a baby boy and found him just as they were told. Have we left also in haste, or are our thoughts wandering away from us this night?

The shepherds knew what was most important, what matters most. Placing all else after their search for God, they went in haste to find him. Tending their sheep was certainly important – indeed, it was their livelihood! – but worshipping God is still more important; it is most important. From these simple shepherds "we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place – however important they may be – so as to make our way towards God, to allow him into our lives and into our time." We, like the shepherds, must make haste in our search for God, placing everything after this.

Even as we set out towards him, we know that he has already come toward us, that he continually comes toward us. Before he ascended to the Father, he promised his Apostles, "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). It was the Lord’s way of answering their plea, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over" (Luke 24:29).

Gazing upon the Child of Bethlehem, do we not also say, "Stay with us"? Do we not want the Lord to remain with us so that he his love might always be in our hearts?

Centuries ago, Origen asked, "Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20)."

Through the Blessed Sacrament, dear friends, the Lord Jesus remains with us always and enters into our souls, changing us into himself. It is a mystery already revealed at his birth.

Jesus, the "bread of life," was born in the city of David, in Bethlehem (John 6:35). Having no room in the inn, the Virgin Mary "laid him in a manger," a food trough for the animals (Luke 2:7). The name of the city of his birth, Bethlehem, means "the house of bread." The Bread of Life was born in the House of Bread and placed in the manger. He has come to us to enter into us, to live in us that we might "share his life completely."

How do we arrive at the city of Bethlehem? By going to the altar of the Lord for the celebration of the Mass. The same Lord born in Bethlehem comes to us wherever the Eucharist is celebrated and enters into us when we receive his Body and Blood.

Let us say with the shepherds, Transeamus usque Bethlehem, Let us go to Bethlehem! Yes, let us go to see love made flesh. Let us go to him to receive his gift of himself that produces within us "abundant joy and great rejoicing" (Isaiah 9:2). When we leave this night, let us announce to all we meet: "The Word of God became man; we have seen his glory" (John 1:14)! Amen!

See Also:

Homily - The Nativity of the Lord by Fr. Daren J. Zehnle
Can there be anything more vulnerable or defenseless than a newborn child? Yet it is precisely this that the Son of God becomes for us to manifest the depth of his great love.

Homily - Vigil of the Nativity of the Lord
Tonight I wish to focus on the statue of St. Joseph as a way to come to a deeper understanding of the mystery of Christmas. Take a look at this Joseph, if you will.

Christmas Homily by Fr. Andrew
Which Christmas scene do our hearts desire? Do our hearts desire the soft, the quiet, the hidden scene of Bethlehem? Do our hearts desire the loud, the brash, the bold proclamation of the field? Where would God have us meet Him?

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