Homily : The Nativity of the Lord/Christmas, Year ABC, Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 52:7-10; Ps 98:1-6; Heb 1:1-6 and John 1:1-18 [day]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 [In the Year of Mercy]In this Year of Mercy we celebrate, this day, the Birth Day of Christ, the Light of the world, with such joy! Like many of you, I found myself again making calls and sending many good wishes to my friends, and family members, as much as time would allowed. I have also received many wishes from so many of you (friends, colleagues, and family members). My heart is fill with gratitude. I am very grateful to you. One of my cards read: “Dear Fr. Michael with the old wish that is ever new- Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” I have kept reflecting on these words such that I will like to say to you, “With the Old wish that is ever new, I wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year”...!
At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Christ in Bethlehem, in our hearts, in our homes, cities and nations- the New Bethlehems. It is an old celebration that is ever new! It is one of the happiest moments, and days of our Christian lives. On this day, Christians all over the world (Africa, America, Asia, and Europe etc.), young and old, rejoice, celebrate, give, and receive gifts, consolidate the messages of hope and love, the good news, preached and heard during the past four weeks of Advent. This good news is ever new, whenever and wherever it is reenacted in play [like our children tonight], or chanted in songs like in the Handel’s Messiah of 1741, it is ever new, and ever fresh and sweet, irrespectively of the language or culture of the liturgy!
But circumstances surrounding us daily, weekly, monthly and yearly define the newness of how we respond, or how we celebrate this Christmas, each year, even though it is an age-long celebration! Events of the past 11 or 12 months that have unfolded around our families, our churches, religious communities, work places, our cities, our climates, our environments, our nations and our world, leave many of us reflecting on how to celebrate Christmas this year. Many of our families today have experienced joys. Some have or are experiencing sorrows, sicknesses, and good health. Some have even loss their loved ones. Many of us today, also live in towns, communities and cities threatened by the fear of Isis, severe climate change, warm weather, different kinds of mistakes (including—those made by Steve Harvey as to who won Miss Universe). Still this year, many live in towns were there are gun violent, Boko Haram, terrorisms, refugee crises and oppressive socio-political structures.
It is also a year that Pope Francis has inaugurated an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy- calling it “a Special time for the Church when the witness of believers might grow stronger and more effective” (Misericordiae Vultus 3). Believers in what, one may ask? Believers in the true meaning of the mysteries of Christ’s events, beginning with his birth, which we celebrate at Christmas.
In the Light of today’s readings, and no matter the circumstances that we may live today, Christmas is a celebration of the gift of life over death. It is a celebration of light over darkness. It is a celebration of truth over falsehood, and grace over judgment. With mercy, God does not judge us as we deserve! Christmas, in this Year of Mercy fulfils, those promises made to us by the Lord, through the mouths of our ancestors and prophets- the fulfilment of those covenants which the Lord had established with us- including, the promise of his abiding love, uncompromising mercy, his kindness, his amazing grace, his surpassing generosity; his faithfulness, his redeeming skills, his saving power in our lives, from one generation to another.
These blessings reach their fullness in the incarnation expressed particularly in the Gospel reading, John 1:1-18, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… this word became flesh and dwelt among us as light over darkness.” His birth has given us new life and a shining light over the darkness of the world we live in today. Speaking of this, 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.”
The light that John speaks of here, in symbols, is every good things we hope for, and dream of: love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, charity, unity and joy, prosperity, growth, good health of mind and body, security, kindness onto our neighbors and forgiveness in this year of mercy. While the darkness he speaks of in symbols as well, includes, conflict, miscommunication, war, terrorism, gun violent, refugee crises, poverty, job loss, and setbacks in life that we [you and I] may have experienced, especially for the past 12 months.
In the first reading, Isaiah, and ancient Prophet spoke of this Light as the redeemer. He is the one who brings us glad tidings. He is our champion. He is the announcer of peace and salvation in every generation. He is the bearer of good news to all peoples (Isa 52:7-10). The good news of joy, the joy of hope, the joy of mercy, the joy of peace. The joy of good health. He is Christ our savior!
How we response to this entrance of a joyful Light into our world of sorrowful darkness is important! His parents can teach. Joseph and Mary will react with love. They handled everything with patience and great care, in spite of the threats of Pilates and those who opposes the Light. Zechariah, Elizabeth, and their child John the Baptist, his precursor will respond 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, especially in this Jubilee year of Mercy, let us receive Christ, the Light of the world with joy, and be ready to share his compassion, his mercy, his peace with our neighbors. Let this light shine in our homes in this year of mercy. May this light reflects positively in our neighborhood, schools, institutions, offices, churches, society, and wherever we are, in our thoughts, words, and actions, in the gifts we share and through the manner in which we bear witness to the gospel as believers- in this year of mercy!