God is with us! The Nativity of the Lord Christmas Day Reflection
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni OSB – The Nativity Of The Lord (Christmas Day Mass)
Sermon And Christian Act In The Word
Theme: The Word became Flesh! Emmanuel! God is with us! Let Love lead us!
Point of Reflection: Why did Jesus Christ who is the Son of God had to be born? Why God the Father did not just send an already-living son from heaven and come on Earth? The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us. Is Christmas the greatest feast celebrated in the Church? The answer is totally no. There is a hierarchy of truth and feast: Easter is the first and mother of all feasts. The second important feast is Pentecost, and the third is Christmas. The Roman Church started celebrating Christmas only after Christianity was recognised as the state religion. Of course, the truth of the matter is that no one knows the exact date Jesus Christ was born but the fact remains that Jesus Christ was born, hence, the Word was made fresh and it is Emmanuel “God is with us”.
First Reading: Isaiah 52:7–10
Psalm: Psalm 98:1–6
Second Reading: Hebrews 1:1–6
Gospel: John 1:1–18
Sermon (Reflection) & Christian Act in Word: The important message of today is very clear from the Gospel according to John, “in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” This is the gist of today’s celebration. God the second person in the Trinity has become fully human and dwelling among us. This is the best ever gift God the Father has given to humanity and this is out of love. Hence, the celebration of Christmas is the celebration of love. The Son of God has been born. This is love.
The Son of God has been born! Perhaps, we may ask, where is He born? The Scriptural readings tell us that, he was born in the manger, but today’s manger is your heart and my heart.
Let us allow Christ to be born in our hearts. But how can the Son of God be born in the heart where there is jealousy! Anger! Envy! Hatred! Bad thoughts and feelings! Let us celebrate this year’s birth of Jesus Christ in a solemn and unique way by allowing love and grace to lead our hearts. What the world needs not is LOVE. Let the birth of Christ to us Christians bring love to the rest of humanity.
God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as True God and true man to save us from the bondage of sin. For us Christians, the 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 and atoned for our sins by His suffering, death and Resurrection. 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.
Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful, rewarding God and not a judgmental, cruel, 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 privilege and duty, and every time we do that, Jesus is reborn in our lives. Let us humbly admit the truth with the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem but all in vain until He is born in me.” CHRIST MUST BE BORN IN OUR HEARTS.
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.
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 abiding Holy Spirit, residing in us and thus making us His “Temples.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary privilege and duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble, committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today. Let us allow love to lead our lives.
Brief History of Christmas: With the early Fathers of the Church, we can denote some Church’s traditional beliefs on Christmas. Around 204, Hippolytus of Rome argued for December 25th. This is the earliest record we have of Jesus’ birth being December 25. In 386, St John Chrysostom preached a homily on December 20, in which he noted that “the day of Christ’s birth in the flesh” is about to arrive in “a period of five days,” or on December 25 (On the Incomprehensible Nature of God 6:23, 30).
Finally, around 408, St Augustine wrote that “according to tradition Jesus was born on December 25” (The Trinity 4:5). But some other Fathers of the Church thought that Jesus was born on January 4th, in 4 B.C. before the death of King Herod the Great.
Based on Roman census records and the report about the occurrence of a comet in the sky, they fix it on September 11, B. C. 3. But some Church historians argue that 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 of the Sun-god during the winter solstice, while converted Roman soldiers might celebrate Christmas instead the birthday of Mitra, the Roman god-of-virility (Deus Solus Invictus). The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honouring the god of agriculture, Saturn. Later the Kalends of January were observed to celebrate the triumph of life over death.
The entire season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun., or Saturnalia. It was Emperor Julianus who declared Christmas as a national holiday in the 6th century. Most of the present-day Christmas symbols like the Christmas carols and gifts, Christmas tree and Christmas lights are also remnants of the pagan celebrations. It was St. Francis of Assisi who first introduced the manger or Christmas crib in the 13th century.
Action: As Christians, we need to live by the words of Mother Teresa: “It is Christmas when you let God love others through you.”
Prayer: Loving Father, as it is the birth of Christ your Son, send your Holy Spirit to enter into hearts and allow love to lead our life, what the world and our hearts need is love, let love lead the world with the birth of Jesus Christ, Amen.