Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Homily (3): The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Mass during the Day Year ABC): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (3): The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Mass during the Day Year ABC): Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Readings: Isa 52:7-10; Ps 98:1-6; Heb 1:1-6 and John 1:1-18(Isa 62:1-3; Ps 89:4-5,16-17,27,29;Acts 13:16-17,22-25; Matt 1:-25[Vigil ], Isa 9:1-6; ps 96:1-3,11-13; Tit2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14 [during the night], Isa 62:11-12; 97:1,6,11-12; Tit 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20(at Dawn]).

The Saving Light of Christmas!

 At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.  It is one of the happiest moments and days of our Christian lives. On this day, Christians all over the world (Africa, America, Asia, Europe etc.), rejoice, celebrate, give, and be given, consolidate the messages of hope and love heard during the past four weeks of Advent.  Today we celebrate the gift of life over death, light over darkness, truth over lie, and grace over sin.

Christmas fulfils, in a way, those promises made to us by the Lord, through our ancestors, patriarchs and matriarchs. Today fulfils in a sense, the covenant the Lord had established with us: the promise of his abiding love, his unshakeable mercy, his resolute kindness, his amazing grace, his surpassing generosity; his faithfulness, his redeeming skills, his saving power in human history, from one generation to another. These blessings reach their fullness in the incarnation of the Word/Logos [God], becoming flesh, and making his dwelling among us, carum factum est (John1:14).

In the Gospel, John’s prologue, which begins with, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” summarizes what we do today, celebrating God’s saving presence in our lives, on this this Christmas day, the birth of Christ. His birth has given us new life and a light for the world.  John says, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Ordinarily we know the opposite of light is darkness. We use light to do many positives things in our lives. We use light energy, electricity to cook, read and brighten our ways. We drive with it on foggy and cloudy roads or in the night. Even plants and crops need light for photosynthesis through which we have the green vegetables and lands. In fact, some cultures and families would still name their babies "light", "uwnana," or brightness.  These are metaphors and symbols of good things. Therefore, we should not be surprise that John would use this metaphor to express the birth of Christ.  John’s Gospel is full of symbols and metaphors as we know.
In John darkness is a metaphor for evil things in this world: war, terrorism, illnesses, hostility, hatred, racism, and oppression of the poor, discrimination of all forms, anything we know that is sinful, forbidden by the church, and our faith traditions. Each of us, once in a while, do experience this darkness in different forms. It could be poverty, threats of ISIS/religious extremisms, Ebola, HIVS or any form of deadly disease.  Light on the contrary, is  a metaphor for many blessings in this life: love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, charity, unity and joy, prosperity, growth, good health of mind and body. These are what we pray for each day! And every generation have been hoping and longing for this Light.

Isaiah in particular, spoke about this Light, “behold a virgin shall conceived and give birth to a son, and his name will be called Immanuel” (Isa 7:14).  In the first reading, this Light is the redeemer, the one who brings us glad tidings. He is the announcer of peace and salvation in every generation, and the bearer of good news to all peoples (Isa 52:7-10). He is Christ our savior!

It does not end here. In his ministry, soon after Christmas, love and compassion, especially to the poor, the marginalized and those in prisons, would be his guiding principles (Luke 4).  He would change water into wine (John 2), women would be spoken to (John 4), and children would be invited with care. 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. He will lecture Pilate on the meaning of truth and Mary Magdalene on the importance of detachment.

How we response to this entrance of Light into our world of darkness counts.  His parents, Joseph and Mary reacted with love, patience and great care, in spite of the threats of Pilates  and those who opposes the Light. John the Baptist, his precursor responded with great humility. The angel broke into a great song, “Glory to God in the Highest… peace to people of good will”, which we began this Mass with. The remnant of Israel, the shepherds of Bethlehem, Simeon and Hannah, all saw and received Christ as a gift, as the saving Light of the world, as God’s revelation and presence in their midst, and were exemplary in their lives to others.

In the same way we want, to receive this Light with joy, but not restrict it to ourselves. We want to allow it shine and reflects in our homes, in our neighborhood, churches, society, and wherever we are, in our thoughts, words, and actions, in the gifts we share and through the witness we bear to the Gospel.