There is something about the songs of Christmas that stirs something deep within me. When I hear songs like O Come all ye Faithful, Silent Night, Joy to the World their words center me on Christ. Emmanuel who came to us in the most unlikely of circumstances. He was born in a manger in Bethlehem with the heavens filled by a multitude of angels praising God and proclaiming “Glory to God in the highest.”
But who heard the angelic hosts and responded, the shepherds. They heard and responded by leaving their flock to go to see who it was the angels were praising. I have always wondered why it was in a town where so many people had gathered because of the census, the only people who went to see who this child was were the shepherds. Where were the throngs of people who flocked to Bethlehem? Did they not see or hear the angel’s message? Didn’t the appearance of the three travelers from the east stopping in front of the manger cause anyone to wonder who it was they were there to see? If you pay attention to the narrative of Jesus birth by John you would see he gives us a clue when he says, “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.”
From the beginning of his birth people either accepted him or rejected him. That day the shepherds accepted him while the towns people and pilgrims ignored him. John’s gospel is clear about who Jesus was and challenges us to acknowledge Jesus as God among us. John is also is clear that the mission of Jesus was then and continues to be reconciling us to God. Today we celebrate his coming, his birth among us, but we also celebrate the new birth offered us by his coming. So today we need to pay attention to the announcement of the angels and move beyond the child in the manger to see the God who offers us the honor of becoming children of God.
Today we need to look beyond the baby to see the gift God offered us. What God offers us is grace and mercy through the birth, life and death of Jesus. We cannot celebrate his birth and at the same time never accept what his life and resurrection means for us. We, as a people made in the image of God, cannot embrace one aspect of Jesus and ignore the other aspects of Jesus. John in the entirety of his gospel shows us the only way to live the Christian life is for everything we believe and everything we practice to be rooted in Jesus.
So my brothers and sisters, as we celebrate Christmas with family, friends, with delicious foods and desserts, with gifts of love shared with others let us not forget the greatest gift given to us was the baby in the manger. This gift was then and remains something that we need to seek out and embrace. Like the shepherds we must make an effort to go beyond hearing the message about God. We must leave that place where we are comfortably settled hearing about God and follow the challenge to seek the person of Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord.
Christ came to offer us life everlasting and to understand that the only way to the Father is through him. Yet in order to receive the gift of everlasting life we must first accept that his becoming man opened the flood gates of God’s love and mercy. We must not only accept the gift of God but we must make ourselves a gift to God.
I want to wish all my faithful followers a very blessed and holy Christmas and my prayer for you is that Christ is born in your hearts as you sing one of those hymns during mass this Christmas. May God’s love fill you, Deacon Dave