Monday, December 12, 2016

Homily Solemn Nativity of the Lord (Vigil Mass) Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily Solemn Nativity of the Lord (Vigil Mass) Year ABC: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

·        Isaiah 62:1-3;
·        Ps 89:4-5,16-17, 27,29;
·         Acts 13:16-17, 22-25
·        Matt 1:1-25

Christ is born: Joy to the world!

 “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.!”

 Tonight, or this evening, here in our parish, in our hearts, homes, and all over the world, on earth and in heaven, we begin a joyful celebration of the Birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace and the Savior of the world. We celebrate the reasons for the past four weeks of spiritual and material preparations.  We celebrate the reasons for all those shopping; reason why Santa Claus is in town again; the reasons for all these decoration in our church, in the narthex, the ones in our homes, in our offices, in our work places, in the plazas, public squares, in shopping and community centers. We celebrate the reasons for all those snow men dancing with our kids in our homes.

 We are celebrating the reasons why we will soon gather to exchange those beautiful gifts and meals with our children, grandchildren, spouses, neighbors, our loved ones, friends and relatives. Meals and Gifts that represent the love, the peace and reconciliation that Christ the bridegroom brings us at Christmas. We are celebrating the reasons for all those stamps and envelop which we have already mailed- the candies and the cakes, the candles and the checks, the ribbons and those trees, and gifts.

Personally I have received so many gifts from you and I want to say thank you very much. All these are because a special humble friend, Christ, has been born for us in Bethlehem, as foretold by the prophets.

Isaiah was one of them who says, “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) .

 Matthew’s Gospel (Matt 1:1-25), that long genealogy, narrates this fulfillment of this prophecy. Its tells us how the birth of Christ came about (Matt 1:1-25) and traces the human and divine origins of Christ. Yes, it is a long list of human origins starting with Abraham cycles to names mentioned in the historical books, down to the book of Ruth. Showing how connected Christ human origin is, universally speaking. The story of the universal Christ, born for us at Christmas. It is such a compelling and appealing story that it is been reenacted on the TV and even here in our parish hall by our children. It is a story of God’s love for us in Christ- Jesus; who loves to walk with us, travel with us, eat us, play with us, and of course saves humanity.

 Christ’s birth brings us redemption. It brings us light and joy as it did to Israel. Even the angels could not resist this joy. They broke into that song of Gloria, with which we began this mass with, singing: “Glory to God in the Highest… peace to people of good will.”

 Peace to people of Good will, those God has chosen those who trust God, those who acknowledge him, the remnants, and his creatures, those he loves! That is, each and every one of us; all of us, you and I, men, women, children, our grandchildren, friends, family members, people of all walks of life; our parish community.

This joyful song of Gloria is also hidden in the first reading of today(Isaiah 62:1-5) where the prophet Isaiah says, no more shall other nations call a rebuilt Israel forsaken or consider a rebuilt Israel a desolate land of mockery. Rather, Christ long foretold by Isaiah delights in each and every one of us, the renewed Israel! He loves to see us do well. Christ cherishes our well-being. The sick, Christ wants to see you get well. Those who lost their jobs, Christ want you to get back to work- to find a job. To those who have experienced, Christ wants those misfortunes reversed, in the spirit of Christmas.

 Christmas refreshes and renews us in 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, isolationism and a broken economy. His birth requires a response from us!

One of those responses if I may suggest is found in Psalm 89, which invites us to constantly sing the goodness and the blessings of the Lord. Thanking God for all that he has done for us from creation’ for coming down in the person of his Son, in human form to be with us, to identify with us, humans, the family of God.

St. Paul, in Today’s Second (Acts of the Apostle) bears witness to Christ and acknowledges him as the King and Son of David. Even though Paul did this in Antioch in Pisidia thousands of Years ago, we can continue today to bear witness to Christ born for us today in our communities, homes, street corners, neighborhood, and office locations.

This becomes more urgent especially in the times we live in. There are some that cannot afford those envelops, stamps, candies and Christmas trees. I mean the poor. We have to reach out to them, like Pope Francis. We heard, he sneaks out from the Vatican at night to bring food to the poor and the homeless. There those who don’t have the peace that we have here in our nation. They are constantly at war and acts of division. Few weeks ago, Late Nelson Mandela of South Africa attracted 100s of world leaders to his funerals, while millions of us clued on our TV, because of what he stood for: peace, love, reconciliation, forgiveness, and unity. Christmas is a time we joyfully strive to celebrate these virtues.

 I am sure you are also aware that there some are working around the clock to take Christ out of Christmas. Some are even afraid to say publicly “Merry Christmas.” Other Christians are restricted to say “Happy Holiday” not “Merry Christmas,” in their work environment. I am sure you have also heard or read on the newspaper that not long ago a Middle School teacher at some place removed the name of Christ from some Christmas songs he/she taught to the children. We live in a challenging time, political maneuverings, economic hardships and religious pluralism.

Remember it was in a challenging moments like this that made the Evangelist Matthew and Luke to actually celebrate and tell the story of the human and divine origins of Christ. It was in a moment of trials that Saint stood up for the faith, and bore great witness, to Christ, the Son of David, born for us at Christmas.

Christmas, today invites us to do the same. Christmas, invites us to celebrate the birth of Christ, to be happy, to be human, to be hopeful, to be joyous, give and be given, be thankful for what God has done for us, but also time to appreciate and bear witness to our faith. It is a time of grace, peace, love, reconciliation, happiness given to us. As we celebrate we are encouraged to share these joy, grace and love of God with others, our family member. And we are encouraged to sing those Christmas Carols, particularly the one I began this reflection with:

“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.!”

Reflection Questions:

1.     What does Christmas, todays vigil Mass reminds you of–our origins, place of family, importance of hope promised us?

2.     How do we convince other skeptical members of our faith communities that Christ is with us?

3.     Are we joyful and thankful for what God has done for– us always- by sharing God’s blessings with our neighbors?