Merry? | Christmas Homily 2017

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us?

The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

How strange.

We have the disadvantage of being of this side of the story. For us, we hear “messiah” and we automatically think of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Obviously the messiah is the incarnate Son of the Father, born of the Virgin Mary. But imagine living in the first century, hearing that the Word, the “logos”, the creating, sustaining principle of the universe became a man. Unthinkable. Why would the all-powerful, far-away deity have anything to do with lowly humanity? For many, humanity was something to be overcome; death meant the soul’s freedom from the prison of its disgusting human body. Why would the Logos choose to lower himself to such a wretched state?

To prove once and for all that humanity is not wretched, but precious beyond all telling. We heard in the opening prayer that it was God who gave humanity its dignity, and that he assumed human nature in order to restore humanity to grace that man might become a partaker in the divinity of God. Indeed, the Word has become flesh and dwelt among us for the sake of our salvation and union with God.

One of the biggest obstacles in the early Church was the sheer strangeness of this concept, and the Church Fathers used it to their advantage, agreeing with those who believed it seemed preposterous. Indeed, the idea that God would become a man is bizarre and that’s why we believe it; nobody would make it up.

It’s strange, sure, but it’s real. A cult of idiots can’t last for 2,000 years. It’s real, and God becoming man is precisely why today is a very merry day, indeed.

A couple of days ago, I was listening to the “Year in Sound”, a special episode of the New York Times’ podcast “The Daily.” If you don’t subscribe to that podcast, you should. The episode featured an interview where the woman being interviewed was asked to sum up 2017 in one word. Her response: “historic.”

Indeed, it seems that just about every major story this year was something new, something we’d never seen before, and something that always seemed worse than the last thing. Whenever we turned our TV’s on, we heard about poverty, violence, destruction, disaster, politics, corruption, and sexual abuse.

The major things impacting our world every day seem small or far off compared to the real life daily struggles we faced this year. Maybe this is the first Christmas without our spouse or child; maybe this is the first Christmas since the diagnosis; maybe this is the first Christmas without mom or dad, whose presence made this holiday special our entire life; maybe this is the first Christmas since the lay-offs or the bankruptcy; maybe this is the first Christmas in a new town, far away from family. Whatever the specific circumstances, there are battles going on in every one of us, and they don’t stop just because it’s Christmas.

All things considered, it might be hard to imagine anything about this Christmas being merry.

Here’s the thing: I’m not merry because my life is merry, but because something merry has happened to me.

For many of us the great battles we face this year are the same or are some variation of the great battles we faced last year and the year before that. For many, Christ has been kicked out of Christmas for one reason or another. Yeah, “keep Christ in Christmas,” but not because it’s what a bumper sticker told you to do but because maybe – just maybe – the One we’ve run away from is the one who can really help us. Maybe the one who promises mercy will actually show it to me. Maybe the one who promises to make all things truly new actually can. Maybe the one who comes to us first, who loves us first, who calls us first really does desire from me – me: sinful, silly, wayward me – union and love forever.

My life is not the thing by which I measure whether or not I can or should be merry. The fact that in the midst of the darkness caused by all the nonsense I face, a light that I didn’t ask for and don’t deserve continues to shine is the reason and source of my merriment.

The ‘period’ at the end of the sentence of my woes is precisely this: a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel. God is with us. God is for us. God is in us. Emmanuel. Jesus.

This Emmanuel is the Word made flesh, the one who came to dwell among us in total freedom. The very fact of what we celebrate on Christmas is enough to show us that no battle is to big to rob us of our dignity; no battle is too big to extinguish the light that overcomes darkness.

No one person in this church can solve world hunger, end poverty, or clear government of its corruption. I have no idea how to talk about that because it’s so far off my radar and my agenda. While Christ certainly hopes to be Lord of those things, I encourage you to let him do his work even in Plainfield.

We can’t solve the major issues, but we can bring Christ to Plainfield where he already is and desires to work. This place, this little nowhere town, is where Jesus is working in your life and it’s where he’s asking you to make him known. Bring Jesus to Route 59 and to the line at Peter Rubi; bring him to Tischler’s and to Front Street Cantina; bring him to the North vs Central football game; bring him to your kitchens and family rooms; let him do his thing in you that his will for our little home might be done. That is how the world will change, that is how the battles will end, that is how his presence will be made known.

The Logos, the eternal Word becoming flesh seems ridiculous, it seems strange. But it’s also real. He promises an end to the battles, to the woes, to the strife and, in the meantime, offers consolation and grace to help us stand and fight and carry on.

And it is in this spirit that I say,
Merry Christmas.