Posted by: matt25 | December 25, 2011

The Incarnation

Homily for The Nativity of the Lord, Readings for the Mass during the day.  Reading 1: Isaiah 52:7-10, Responsorial Psalm:  Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6, Reading II:  Hebrews 1:1-6, Gospel:  John 1:1-18 or John 1:1-5, 9-14 Image

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The mystery of the incarnation is born today in us.

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Well we made it.  All of the frantic activity that leads up to Christmas is pretty much finished, except for what needs to be done for Christmas dinner.  It’s pretty easy to think about Christmas in earthly terms, the details that need to be tended to, the gifts that we receive and the gifts that we give, all of the things that we do because at the heart of it, today is a very different day from the rest of the year and we know it.  Today is a celebration of an event, the Christ event!…  An event from which we count our years, in our world things happened in history either before or after the birth of the Christ of God who was named Jesus of Nazareth.

In remembrance of this great event, Our friends and family members who may have gone to the vigil Mass, or perhaps at Midnight or Sunrise, had the joy of hearing the Good News from Matthew or Luke while we heard from John.  They heard about Mary and Joseph, dreams and angels, shepherds and overcrowded inns, while we heard,

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

Is it just me or did we get a harder Gospel to understand?

Maybe… but maybe it is worth working with a little bit.  Did you know that up until Vatican II this Gospel text was proclaimed at the end of every normal celebration of the Mass, earning it the misnomer the “last gospel”?

Why did we do that… for centuries?  We did it because it ended every mass with the beautiful and compelling truth of the incarnation.  The incarnation, that’s another one of those silver dollar words that we throw around at church but seldom hear at the water cooler.  What the heck does that actually mean?  If we don’t have some kind of handle on that we can’t really understand Christmas.

The evangelists who wrote the Gospels each looked at it from a different perspective.  Luke’s account carefully documents the historical birth of the Son of God, starting with “in those days.”  Matthew’s account begins with a long genealogy, setting the birth of Jesus within the history of Israel.  With these two Gospels we may have a tendency to look at the incarnation as a historical event, frozen forever as that important point in time.  But watch how John counterbalances that.  John starts with “In the beginning…”  This phrase is a mystical code, which means “always and everywhere”.

We need all three evangelists to understand the incarnation.  Yes, God became man in the person of Jesus the Christ, but it is so much more than that.  John also tells us,

“to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God,

to those who believe in his name…”

Did you listen to what Fr Charles prayed at the Collect a little while ago During the Introductory Rites?

O God, who wonderfully created the dignity of human nature

and still more wonderfully restored it,

grant, we pray,

that we may share in the divinity of Christ,

who humbled himself to share in our humanity.

So it remains today and always.  Our prayer and purpose is to share in the “life which is the light of the human race that the darkness has not overcome!

Every single time that I assist at mass and prepare for the Eucharist, I hand the priest the paten with the bread to be consecrated.  Then I pour wine and a little water into the chalice saying quietly:

“By the mystery of this water and wine

may we come to share in the divinity of Christ

who humbled himself to share in our humanity”

The incarnation embraces us when we embrace our faith.  Our faith is an incredible gift, which allows us to become the hands and feet of Christ in the world.  We are the incarnation when we visit the sick and the imprisoned, help the poor and the hungry, comfort those who grieve, stand up for those who are powerless, in and out of season, not counting the cost, but doing what is right in the eyes of God because we are the daughters and sons of God.  This is what happens the more we ask for Christmas to live in our hearts.

Maybe now we can understand the incarnation a little better.

Maybe now we can understand what happens at the holy mass a little better.

Maybe now we can understand the importance of Christmas a little better.

The word, that was with God, that was God…

The Word that is the Gospel that is proclaimed each week…

The Word that is the Eucharist we can receive at every mass…

The Word that grants us grace upon grace and reveals the Father to us…

The Word that poured out His life for us on the cross to restore us to the Father..

This Word is the reason for the season.

This Word is the” why” shot through all we do today.

This Word, if we believe, is the foundation of our lives.

On this foundation we can build a house that will withstand the storms of life and give us peace that no amount of money, power, or influence could buy for us.

How can we respond to such an incredible gift?

In John Shea’s book “The Hour of the Unexpected” he shares a little story called Sharon’s Christmas prayer:

She was five,

sure of the facts,

and recited them with slow solemnity

convinced every word

was revelation.

She said

They were so poor that

they only had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat

and they were a long way from home without getting lost.

The lady rode a donkey, the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady.

They had to stay in a stable with an ox and an ass (hee-hee)

but the three rich men found them because a star lited the roof.

Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep but not feed them.

Then the baby was borned.

And do you know who he was?

(Her quarter eyes inflated to silver dollars.)

The Baby was God.

And she jumped into the air

whirled round, dove into the sofa

and buried her head under the cushion

which is the only proper response

to the Good News of the Incarnation.

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