The Solemnity of the Nativity of Out Lord, Christmas: Our God Saves
Merry Christmas to you all! May your Christmas celebration be centered on the Presence of the Lord we celebrate today and every day.
About two weeks ago, on the Third Sunday of Advent, Jesus asked, “What did you go out to the desert to see?” He addressed these words to the people who had flocked to listen to John the Baptist, who, at the time the Lord spoke, was in Herod’s prison. Jesus asked the people why they were drawn to John. He was not a reed shaken by the wind. He proclaimed the truth and stuck to it, regardless of the difficulty some would have in accepting it. John the Baptist was not a king or a politically powerful individual. What then did the people go out to see? They went out to see a prophet. They were drawn by his words. They leapt into the Jordan River to commit themselves to the Truth John proclaimed.
The question that Jesus asked them regarding John, we can ask ourselves regarding our Lord and our Christmas celebration. What do we go to Church to see?
Regardless of each person’s situation in life, all who worship on Christmas celebrate Jesus Christ. None of us can tolerate how the materialistic elements of the world have transformed the Birth of a Poor Child in a stable. We want to celebrate the spiritual, not the material. We go to church because in many different ways we are called to savor the Presence of Jesus Christ in our lives and in our world. Yes, we celebrate the historical fact and keep alive so many romantic feelings of Christmas through the carols, the decorations, etc. But we are not that shallow as to reduce Christmas to its externals. For us, each of us in our own ways, Christmas is about the encounter with Jesus Christ.
The old Christmas carol Do You Hear What I Hear traced the Christmas message from a lamb to a star to a shepherd boy to a king to the Child. It then proclaimed that the Child would bring us goodness and light. In a world of atrocities and darkness, Jesus brings goodness and light.
His name, Jesus, means “God saves!” We join the saints and people throughout the ages and shout out, “Jesus! Our God Saves.” He saves. He saves us from a life with no meaning. He saves us from the forces of evil that have made war on mankind from the moment man had the ability to chose God or reject Him. He saves us from the forces that are trying to destroy us.
Sometimes we become detached when we speak about the birth of the Savior of Mankind. We are reminded of a world that had rejected God and lost its ability to be united to Him. We remember that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice of Love on the Cross and reunited us to the spiritual. But it is easy to relegate all this to the theological, the historical, certainly not a part of each of our lives. That is the easy way out, a detached look at the Christ event.
That is not what Christmas is about. Christmas is about our God saving each of us, as individuals. Saving us from what? Saving us from all that is destroying us. He saves us from that immediate environment that attacks us. We cannot be committed to Him and join in with the immorality of our workplace, our school, and our neighborhood. Nor can we bear hypocrisy, particularly when we are the hypocrites. How can we say that we are committed to the Lord if we readily join in the immorality of the world? Therefore, we make a choice. We choose Christ. We choose to be separate from the immoral aspects of society. We choose to be holy, for to be holy means to be set apart for God. And that is one of the ways that Our God Saves us.
Life brings many challenges, trials and tragedies. Many of us hurt deeply at Christmas as we reflect on our loved ones who have passed away. Many have lost parents or brothers and sisters. Many have lost husbands or wives. Some have even suffered the worst tragedy life can provide, some have lost children. It is normal to feel these hurts intensified during this very emotional time of the year. But we do not despair. Some of us have received rather difficult medical news. For some, there is little that can be done for their pain. For others, there is only a slim hope that they will celebrate Christmas here on earth next year. But we do not despair. No matter what happens to us or to our loved ones, no matter what happens to us, God always brings meaning and purpose to our lives and never lets anything destroy us eternally. Our suffering always has transformative value. Our God saves. He saves us from despair no matter what life throws at us.
All of us are searching for meaning and purpose in our lives. Life requires a myriad of tasks each day. Diapers need to be changed; children need to be fed; jobs need to be performed well to provide for the family; studies need to be learned; careers need to be embraced; relationships need to be nurtured; husbands and wives need to find new ways to care for each other; children and Teens need to be supported and need to support each other, and so forth and so on. In the middle of our too busy lives, we all ask ourselves, “Why?” Why am I doing all this? What is the meaning of my life? What is my purpose in life? Our God Saves. Jesus gives us meaning and purpose. Toby Mac put it this way, “I was made to love you, I was made to find you, I was made just for you, made to adore you. I was made to love, and be loved by you.”(© 2010 CCLI licence #2368115 ) He was merely expressing in modern terms the message of the old Baltimore catechism, “we were made to love, honor and serve God in this life and be with Him in the next.” Our God saves us from the stagnation of our too busy lives by giving us a purpose for all those tasks that consume so much of our time. You and I were made for Jesus Christ. Everything we do has meaning and purpose to the extent that we are motivated by love, love for each other and through each other, love for God.
Why do we pray on Christmas? We pray to celebrate the Presence of the One Who Saves us, saves us from immorality, saves us from despair, saves us from a life void of meaning.
We come together because God loves you and loves me. He loves us more than we can ever fathom. We pray before the manger and receive the Body and Blood offered for us on the cross. The wood of the manger is indeed the wood of the cross. Jesus became a human being. He embraced life in the manger, and offered His life for us on the cross.
We read in the Gospel for Christmas Day, “those who did accept Him, He gave power to become children of God,” and “we saw His Glory, the Glory of the Father’s only Son, full of Grace and Truth,” and “from his fullness we have all received, grace piling upon grace.”
We are given this grace, this fullness. We see his Glory, His Truth. Through Jesus Christ, we are given the power to become children of God.
“Do you hear what I hear?” It is the voice of Love Incarnate. It is the voice of the baby in a manger. It is the voice of the man on the Cross. It is the voice of the Lord saying to me, saying to you, saying to everyone in the world, “Let me into your life. Let me save you. That is why I came. That is why I was named Jesus.”
Our God saves! Our God saves! There is hope in His very name, Jesus!