Why did God become a man?
Gal. 4:4-7; Matt. 2:1-12.
The Nativity of Our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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11:00 AM 12/25/2011 — A Christmas homily is the easiest and, at the same time, most difficult kind of sermon to prepare. There's so much you can say, and you can't say it all. What can you say about a God who loves His creatures so much that he sent His only Son into the world—a Son who is God Himself—a Son who would save His people from their sins by taking them on Himself, and becoming the Lamb who is slain?
There is the beautiful image of the infant lying in the manger; of His holy Mother, so pure and so obedient to God's will; of St. Joseph, standing by watchful and silent, admitting carefully those who come to adore the God-made-man. It's a wonderful image. It fills us with great peace. And all over the world people are filled with a sense of assurance, that in spite of the turmoil—the insecurity of a depressed economy, the threat of political up-evil—somehow it will all work out. Somehow we're all going to survive it because of that little Child, because of that God who comes so humbly into the world.
But these beautiful images which fill our minds and hearts with such hope during this Holy Season can also blind us; and, like a narcotic, they can shield our vision from the hard reality of Christmas. We forget that every sweetness has its bitter side. And if we think about Christmas long enough—if we spend enough time admiring the beautiful Christmas scene—we eventually remember that this little Child, so adorable and so pure, has come into this world for only one reason: to lifted broken and bloody upon the the gibbet of the Cross as a human sacrifice for our sins. The sweet little babe of Bethlehem, whom wise men sought and of whom angels sang, has come to earth to die.
Have we not gathered here to celebrate His birth with the Divine Liturgy, the memorial of Our Lord's suffering and death? Do we not mark the birth of the Christ Child by offering to God the tortured Body and spilt Blood of His Son, that Son who is both Priest and Victim, who offers and is offered as a sacrifice for the remission of sins, whose adorable Body and precious Blood become our food and drink to strengthen us and make us one? Is this not why the baby comes? Is it so strange, after all, that in gazing upon the manger we should think about the Cross?
On Tuesday of this week we will celebrate the feast of the Church's first martyr, Stephen. His death is described in the Acts of the Apostles; St. Paul is a witness to it. Is the proximity of these two days merely a coincidence? or is it, perhaps, a way the Church has of giving each of us a little nudge in the ribs during our Christmas joy, of reminding us why this Holy Child comes into the world? For he comes not for us simply to adore, but for us to follow as well; and, if we follow him, there are consequences.
This little Child, so meek and so humble, at whom we gaze so lovingly, will grow up to say and do many wonderful things. He will teach the people, he will heal the sick, he will give sight to the blind; he will cleanse lepers and feed the multitude; he will cast our demons and raise the dead. But above all of these he will do his greatest deed: he will die, and rise again; and because of this we will live, and have our sins forgiven.
If we would be like the wise men and give the Christ Child a gift this Christmas let it be this: Let us promise him that he will not have done this in vain; that we will try, with all our might, no matter how hard it gets, to be worthy of his coming; that we will follow in his footsteps even when they lead up the mountain to Calvary. Let us promise him, as we kneel in adoration at the foot of the manger, that we will not desert him at the foot of the Cross.
Father Michael Venditti