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Bishop's Homily for Christmas Day

December 25, 2015

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace; Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa]

That’s it? That’s all?

It is not every day that angels appear to give a heavenly concert to shepherds watching their flocks in the field. Very unusual! Very dramatic! It caused the shepherds to shake in their boots, to be struck with great fear. The news was good news of great joy for all the people, that a savior had been born, the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord. Very impressive! Excellent news! And then the shepherds are told, “And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

That’s it? That’s all? A helpless infant, bound tight to protect him from his vulnerability to the cold, and lying in a feeding trough for animals? That’s the sign? After all the drama of angel songs and glad tidings, you would think there would be something more impressive, something more regal, or something more eye-catching. But, no, that was it.

Then there is the eternal Word of God, who was in the beginning before all things came to be and through whom all things came to be, who was the light of the human race, a light that darkness could not overcome. If you were told that this Word would be made flesh and would dwell among us, wouldn’t you expect an epic poem, perhaps even set to the most beautiful music any human being could compose? Yet that Word becomes flesh right here in this room, proclaimed by the tiny voice of a lector who needs the help of amplification to be heard, who may even stumble upon a word or two. That Word becomes flesh in the hearts of all of us gathered here today, the same hearts that may have turned bitter against a brother or sister, that may have lusted, or that may have been filled with skepticism and doubt. Could it really be true that the Word became flesh in such a simple way? That’s all? That’s it?

When the shepherds went to Bethlehem to visit the newborn babe, they were not surprised by any more drama or fanfare. What they saw was just as simple as had been promised. Yet they went away glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard. Glorifying and praising God for seeing a poor baby? That’s it? That’s all? And when we come here to encounter that same Word of God, light of the human race and savior, do we see anything more dramatic than bread and wine? The same Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger is physically present here with us, to feed us, whose hearts are often so beastly, from the manger of the altar. So routine it can even be boring! That’s it? That’s all?

Then we are told that we are now the ones God has chosen to go out to the whole world to tell the same story about which angels sang. We, who are not always aware of the magnitude of God’s love for us, who are often silent out of fear of rejection. We, who know how hypocritical it is to call others to repentance when we are so much in need of it ourselves. We, who think God must have planned for someone more important, more well-trained, or more articulate to carry his message to others than we could ever be. We who fight with each other are the heralds of peace on earth. We who try to gain more and more for ourselves are entrusted to give up everything for the sake of Christ. We who often think we are gods ourselves, making decisions about life and death and questioning God’s commandments, are entrusted with calling others to come and adore the true King and God. We who are weak are now told that God has chosen us to find shelter for the homeless, to bring comfort to those who mourn, to strengthen those who are afraid or depressed, to bring peace and healing to the world. If we look in the mirror, we might very well ask, “That’s it?” “That’s all?”

But this is the wonder we celebrate this Christmas day. God’s ways are not our ways, and we once again rejoice because “That is it!” “That is all!” It is so simple it can hardly be believed, yet God continues to shine his light on a darkened world through us who are fed and nourished with the Lamb of God, the Word made flesh, the Savior of all people.