Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Epiphany


Merry Christmas.
I know, I know, Christmas is like so last year….

Yet here we are, and yet we are still celebrating Christmas. How can this be?

When did Christmas begin for the world? For many it was on Black Friday. And when did Christmas end?

For the world, by the 26th of December, the holiday was over, tossed out with the dried up Christmas tree, wrapping paper, and assorted debris, dragged to the curb, while the twinkle lights were yanked down and the plastic Santi Claus and Frosty hurled into the basement.

Yet, let us contrast how we began our Christmas Season. The first reading at Midnight Mass was from Isaiah where the prophet proclaimed: The people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.

So, have we seen the great light? Was our Christmas marked by the sight? Did we experience an Epiphany?

For many of us, there are a lot of other lights that are vying for our attention these days.

And there are still more dark clouds that prevent us from seeing the true light.

Yes, in many ways we are still a people that lives in darkness, clouds of violence fill our cities, and the fog of war hangs over our world everywhere making it a land of gloom .

Like the Holy Innocents killed in Bethlehem, many innocent children are killed today simply because they were untimely conceived or born in parts of the world poisoned with war.

Darkness still covers the earth. The culture of death still thrives on the sale and manufacture of arms and weapons.

Many children are taught to fire weapons before they ever learn to read – if they survive childhood or even make it to school.
Or a wee bit closer to home, we must ask ourselves
what keeps us from loving our neighbor as we should. If Christ died for you, then He also died for your neighbor, even the neighbor you don’t like. For Jesus taught us: “Love your enemy” and “love your neighbor” for he knows they are often the same person.

When people encounter us, do they encounter Jesus Christ?
 Are we truly being the Body of Christ?  What more could we do to show the love of God to others?

For better or for worse, many people have abandoned faith in God because of the behavior of believers. Right or wrong, people have judged the existence of God based on the lives of believers.  (pause)

Yet the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.

In the words of Pope Leo the Great, God leapt down from heaven to earth in order to become a helpless, vulnerable infant, like each one of us, in order to teach show us how to live the kingdom of God.

And the strange visitors from the east, the Magi – astrologers – were seeking truth, seeking the God of the universe.

They were not interested in King Herod’s petty political maneuverings.

And to show the importance of their epiphany, the Magi did not return to King Herod.

He was not the true king.

He is not the star of Christmas.

He never was.

So the Magi return to their own country by another route for no one, after truly encountering Christ, can go back the same way they came.

None of us can go back to life as usual after such an epiphany.

After Christmas day some children will often return to the Christmas tree looking for more gifts with the question: “Is that it? Is that all there is?”

On Christmas morning – or perhaps even this morning – we may have awakened asking ourselves, “Is this all there is?”

“Where is this peace the world cannot give?”

Yet the star of Epiphany points us onward.

For the true gift is Christ.

“O Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”

Amid the darkness covering the earth,
and thick clouds of gloom covering the peoples,

“Lord, You shall rescue the poor when she cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
You shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
and you shall save the lives of the poor.”

For God’s love is greater than any evil; Mercy and Justice will have the last Word.

In the name of love, the Word became flesh so that we might know God's love. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

Pope Benedict said: “Christmas is an epiphany – the appearing of God and of his great light in a child that is born for us. Born in a stable in Bethlehem, not in the palaces of kings.

“God became poor. His Son was born in the poverty of the stable. In the child Jesus, God made himself dependent, in need of human love, he put himself in the position of asking for human love – our love.”

“…As a child…he pits himself against all violence and brings a message that is peace. At this hour, when the world is continually threatened by violence in so many places and in so many different ways, when over and over again there are oppressors’ rods and bloodstained cloaks, we cry out to the Lord: O mighty God, you have appeared as a child and you have revealed yourself to us as the One who loves us, the One through whom love will triumph. And you have shown us that we must be peacemakers with you. We love…your powerlessness, but we suffer from the continuing presence of violence in the world, and so we also ask you: show your power, O God. In this time of ours, in this world of ours, cause the oppressors’ rods, the cloaks rolled in blood and the footgear of battle to be burned, so that your peace may triumph.”

In the name of love, He is the one who takes our suffering and raises us to new life.

In the name of love, He is the One who is rejected and yet rises from the dead.

And all who are baptized into Christ Jesus are buried with him, so that as He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

That is the message of Christmas. That each of us, like Christ, will outgrow our cribs and become the Epiphany presence of God in a gloomy world desperately searching for an epiphany of the true light, which is Christ.