(Audio recorded live, 24 December 2021)
Is. 62:1-5; Ps. 89; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Matt. 1:18-25
It is hard to imagine another year has passed and Christmas is upon us. For many, it is the first time we have been together in a long time; for others, it is maybe something you are just getting used to after a long hiatus. For some of our little ones, maybe you are thinking, “How long is this going to take? I can’t wait to open presents.” I want everyone to know how welcome you are to be here and that you are loved by God and your families. This evening, we celebrate the birth of our Blessed Lord. He is the reason we are here; He is the reason we have gathered; He is the reason we exchange gifts on Christmas, for He was God’s gift to the world.
The gift of God was his only begotten Son, born of the Virgin, and of the line of David, the great king of Israel. Our psalm reminds us of the lasting throne of King David that would carry on from generation to generation, and on this day, the Nativity of our Lord, we remember the fulfillment of that promise in the birth of Jesus. The name Iēsous is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua, which as we heard in the Gospel, means “God saves.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
We gather to remember this awesome manifestation of God’s love for the world in the birth of his Son. Our Gospel describes the lineage of Jesus, from Abraham, our father in faith, to David, the great king of Israel, to the Babylonian Exile, a time of great sadness. But, even after their struggle in Babylon, the Lord restored his people to their home land. From then on they worked to rebuild what was lost, which ultimately set the stage for the arrival of Jesus. The faith of the remnant people of Israel helped to usher in a new era of learning, building, and growth. And while there was much corruption and greed among the leadership, Jesus spoke words that were razor sharp, calling all people to turn away from doing evil and return to communion with the Father.
Throughout the prophets, we see the foretelling of Jesus’ arrival on the human scene. Isaiah speaks of the restoration of Israel, Jeremiah speaks of a New Covenant written in our hearts, and John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Lord. The event we celebrate today changed the world forever, and the event of Jesus’ death and resurrection changed our perception of reality forever. We all hope to one day rise with Christ to see a new heaven and a new earth. If not for his resurrection, we would not consider this; if not for his birth, he could not have shown us the way.
And so, this evening we reflect on the tremendous mystery that has unfolded for generations throughout history: The Nativity of our Blessed Lord on Christmas Day and the wondrous meaning of eternal life that has been given to us. We do well to reflect on this great mystery of the Incarnation throughout the Christmas Season. Over the coming days and weeks, as we spend time with family and loved ones, we do well to acknowledge how blessed we truly are. In spite of some of the most difficult times, even facing our own kind of exile, we gather together to celebrate this special occasion. Let us remember the awesome significance of this day throughout our lives, and may our worship at this holy altar be our return to the love of God, who loves us so dearly he gave us his only Son.
Most importantly, may our celebration of the Eucharist strengthen our love, increase our faith, and show us the way home. We are never far from the love of God, so let us not be distant from Him. As he humbled himself to be with us, let us humble ourselves to embrace him. By so doing, we will be filled with his love—a love that frees, a love that transforms, a love that extends to those around us. Such a love is not to be taken lightly, for it is the essence of God. So, may Almighty God bless you with his love, may he bless your families and homes, and may everyone have a very merry Christmas.