Homily for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Mass during the Day at St. Frances Parish NY) Year ABC - Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 52:7-10; Ps 98:1-6; Heb 1:1-6 and John 1:1-18
The Birth of Christ and our Responses
“A child is born for us, and a son is given to us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God Hero, Father –forever, Prince of Peace… and his name will be called Messenger of great counsel” ( cf Isa 9:5-6).
My brothers and sisters, this royal prophecy of Isaiah, fulfills in, and explains the reasons why we are so joyfully and decoratively gathered today. We gather to celebrate Christmas, the Birth of Christ our Lord and Savior, the creative Logos/Word, the Light of the world, the Divine Wisdom and God’s incarnate ( John 1:1-18).
Christmas brings us Christ, the source of life. Christmas brings us Jesus, a Friend of the poor and of the rich. Christmas brings us Christ, Lover of saints and sinners, a Messenger of hope, a Prince of Peace and a Prophet of reconciliation, especially in a divisive world of today; a world plagued with wobbling politics and a broken economy. His birth requires a response from us!
Personally, I am so happy to be back here, home, at St. Frances Cabrini Church. And to share in the wonderful work and faith experiences we share here under the pastoral leadership of Fr. Don, with his team and the entire community. I have discovered that each year brings something new, something vibrant, something refreshing, something worth reflecting upon, or something to thank God or ask God for. I am sure you also do.
I have celebrated Christmas here with you as a student from St. John’s University. I have celebrated Christmas with you as a student from the Catholic University, Washington DC. I recall there was also a time I flew in from Rome to celebrate the Birth of Christ with you, with this wonderful faith community. This year I am also so privileged to be here with you today, as a seminary professor from the Sacred Heart School of Theology, beautifully located in Franklin County, in the south suburbs of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. It is an experience to be part of that formative team training future priests who would imitate Christ born for us at Christmas. I am thankful to God for this opportunity!
For all of us, it is the first Christmas, with the Third or new translation of the Roman Missal and after the recent occupied wall- street protesters. Even when we stumble trying to get use to the new Translation, get up, we shall get accustomed to it, not too long from now.
I have also come to witness in our parish community, a team spirit, and hard work, great pastoral and spiritual leaderships. I love our new church bell. It swings and rings hourly or half-hourly. It brings joy. This reminds me of the response of the angels to the Birth of Christ.
They broke into a great song, “Glory to God in the Highest… peace to people of good will”, which we began this Mass with. A song that is also hidden, particularly in the poems of the redeemed Israel, that came up in today’s first reading, Prophet Isaiah chapter 52:7-10.
“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace (not war, not selfishness, not hatred, not greediness, revenge and division, but) bearing, good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion “Your God is King.”
It is the birth of this King that we celebrate today. He is the one whom Evangelist John describes in today’s Gospel, "in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God...." Christ, born today preexisted with God the Father. He is the one through whom all things and all that we have, including life, our families our energies to do our jobs, to participate in politics and manage our economy, go to schools, came to be. He is the creative Logos, the source of being, the one who sustains all things by his mighty power (Heb 1:1-6).
He is greater than John the Baptist, and all the Angels would worship him. In his ministry, water would be changed into wine, women will be spoken with; children would be invited with care. They would be protected not abused. The poor would be loved, the hungry would be fed. Sinners would be forgiven. Zacchaeus would be visited. Lazarus would be raised from the death. Christ born today would come to wash the feet of his disciples, lecture Pilate on the meaning of truth and Mary Magdalene on the importance of detachment.
He would become flesh, carum factum est( John 1:14). Christ is born today to be in the world, but not of the world. The world will reject him- the Light, preferring rather, darkness (John 1:9-11). But to those who did accept him, Christ would give them power to become sons and daughters/children of God. What a special gift! Christ gives gifts to those who receives him (John 1:12-13). At Christmas, Christ is the revelation of that unseen God.
How we receive Christ at Christmas in our changing world today is important. We want it to be part of how we celebrate Christmas. Besides our homes, offices, churches, streets which we have decorated with colorful ribbons and flowers, we want to allow those unfading Christmas Carols in our homes, “come ye faithful,..” “Adestes Fideles,..” Once in royal David City….” “Joy to the world….the Lord is come…” In the new English translation of the Nicene Creed, we reminded to say “I believe in One God.” It is a personal faith, but expressed in the community together. We want to be constantly proud of our faith, our rich heritage and tradition. Merry Christmas to our neighbors should not be too difficult to say!
We also want to draw inspiration from the reception given to Christ as told in the Scriptures, about those faithful and humble remnants of Israel, Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds of Bethlehem, Simeon and Hannah. They saw and received Christ as a gift, as God’s revelation and presence in their midst.
We want, in the same way, to see the birth of Christ as a joy and royal gift to us. We want to respond to Christ’s gifts, by sharing these gifts with our neighbors even through our candies, food, drinks, cookies, clothing and wealth, acts of charity and forgiveness, kind and gentle conversations with one another. Let the visits and telephone calls we extend to our neighbors, to distant friends and relatives, and the joy we share with everyone this Christmas, be added ways we respond to the Birth of Christ, our Lord and Savior.
Finally, I invite you to sing with me:
“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive the King; Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and heaven, and heaven and nature sing.!”