Christmas Homily: Hope in Our Times
* A video of this sermon is available on our Youtube Channel.
“Come, O long-expected Jesus, born to set your people free / Born your people to deliver / Born a child and yet a king / Born to reign in us forever / Now your gracious kingdom bring.”
Why do the Christmas lights sparkle so brilliantly? Why is the family meal so beautiful? Why does the simple crèche, the manger scene with mother and child, move us? Time dissolves at Christmas. We step away from the grownup world and grownup things. Our concerns and worries no longer matter. Everything dissolves, and there is only one thing left to do: adoration.
What is different since that first Christmas day? Nothing. On Christmas, we do not remember the shepherds and magi gathered before the manger. We become the shepherds and magi. We stand with them, as one people, one, singular voice, offering worship. Nothing has changed. What is happening? The shepherds were waiting for the Messiah, in the dark hours of the night. The angels sang their Gloria, in the dark, ebony sky. The magi followed the star in the dark of the heavens. In the darkness of oppression and social anxiety, the elect gathered around the nativity, bent down on their knees. Today, in the darkness of our times, we join them, worshipping together, and Christ is born.
How did the shepherds feel when the angels appeared in the meadow? “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11). Can your feel their hope? The anticipation must have been intoxicating. Maybe some had quarrels. Their quarrels did not matter now. Some were worried about their nation and its tyrants. Not even that mattered any more. A savior was coming. A new kingdom was born. They stepped away from all of it to fall down in adoration of new kind of King. Christmas means we can step away from all our fears. It is divine consent, a permission from God to let go. Nothing else matters now but only to adore.
How did the magi feel when they followed the star? Can you see their hope? They stood face to face with the great dictator, Herod, saying: “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him” (Mt. 2:2). Can you imagine a greater clash of personalities? Herod embodied the spirit of power and corruption. For him, all men and women were numbers, a commodity, a resource to bolster wealth. Herod embodied the system, cold and cruel.
The magi were a different type. Legend says they had been kings, teeming with wealth, jewels, and servants. Yet, they left all that behind. Christmas was near. The heavens were pregnant with new life. They sensed it in their hearts. Herod had his face turned down to the ground, like a miserly Scrooge. Everything to him was politics, economy, and power. The magi had their eyes strained upwards, like a marveling child free to follow his heart. They gave it all up to worship. They became a new race, a new type of humanity, the only eternal humanity, and what we must become: ‘homo adorans’ — beings of adoration.
All the heavenly host lit up the sky. They worshipped in majesty: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, to men of good will.” Tonight, they crowd around the throne of God saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).
How do the angels feel when they bow in adoration? Can your grasp their hope? They know our struggles on earth. They watch as nations rise and fall. They see the crimes and injustices. They are not ignorant of evil, nor indifferent to it. They simply keep their faces fixed on God. They adore with gusto and fervor. Why? A new kingdom is come; a new hope. Christ is born!
Everyone has his or her responsibilities. Christmas is gone and we step back into our routines. We have our jobs and schedules. We have our obligations to family and country. How will we step back into life after the Christmas season? In everything we do, we should be a little detached. Our hearts must remain right here, here at the nativity scene.
Were the shepherds foolish to leave behind their flock? Were the magi silly to abandon their wealth? Were the angels absurd to step away from and worship at a manger? They got it. They figured out the one thing left: adoration.
There will always be Herods. There will always be brokenness. The greatest nations will reach their limit. The most dazzling technologies come to dust. All our loves ones will die. All our work and life is little different from the child’s labors to build a castle on the beach. The tide rises at night and wipes it away.
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall” (1 Pt. 1:24).
What is left? Only the Nativity scene. Here, before us, is a simple stable, in a tiny cradle, not any baby, a perfect child, glowing with his radiant light.
G. K. Chesterton wrote a Christmas poem. I think it is for us, right now, in our times.
The Christ-child lay on Mary's lap. His hair was like a light / O weary, weary were the world, but here is all alright.
The Christ-child lay on Mary's breast. His hair was like a star. O stern and cunning are the kings, but here the true hearts are.
The Christ-child lay on Mary's heart. His hair was like a fire. O weary, weary is the world, but here the world's desire.
The Christ-child stood on Mary's knee. His hair was like a crown. And all the flowers looked up at Him, and all the stars looked down
Can we see the beauty of this child? Do we get what Christmas means? Eternity seems like a long time away, but it is not. Christ is born. That means the new world is born. The kingdom come two millennia ago, and the kingdom to come, which we long for, is all already here. Open your eyes. The light from the nativity scene pours into our lives. It shines in everything. Our world is lit up and sings with angels still:
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, to men of good will.”
Every tree, every cloud, every bird, every star, which we see when we dare to lift our eyes, is worshipping in that same tune. It remains to us to decide. Will we join them? It is our choice. Will we choose the world of Herod, or the world of the shepherds and magi? Christmas means we can stand up and join creation in worship.
Wake up and cherish the feast. Open your eyes and take in the beauty. Exercise the muscle in the soul for giving praise to God. Christ is Born! Everything is new and we are surrounded by creation singing: “Glory to God in the highest.” May our Lord and Savior who was and is and is to come, open our hearts and receive us as members of his beautiful Kingdom, filled up with irresistible adoration.
Merry Christmas! Christ is Born!