November 19, 2017

Christmastide I: Various Christmas sermons of note

Adoration of the Shepherds, Mantegna

Adoration of the Shepherds, Mantegna

Pope Francis, Urib et Orbi Message

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Christmas!

Christ is born for us, let us rejoice in the day of our salvation!

Let us open our hearts to receive the grace of this day, which is Christ himself.  Jesus is the radiant “day” which has dawned on the horizon of humanity.  A day of mercy, in which God our Father has revealed his great tenderness to the entire world.  A day of light, which dispels the darkness of fear and anxiety.  A day of peace, which makes for encounter, dialogue and, above all, reconciliation.  A day of joy: a “great joy” for the poor, the lowly and for all the people (cf. Lk 2:10).

On this day, Jesus, the Saviour is born of the Virgin Mary.  The Crib makes us see the “sign” which God has given us: “a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12).  Like the shepherds of Bethlehem, may we too set out to see this sign, this event which is renewed yearly in the Church.  Christmas is an event which is renewed in every family, parish and community which receives the love of God made incarnate in Jesus Christ.  Like Mary, the Church shows to everyone the “sign” of God: the Child whom she bore in her womb and to whom she gave birth, yet who is the Son of the Most High, since he “is of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:20).  He is truly the Saviour, for he is the Lamb of God who takes upon himself the sin of the world (cf. Jn 1:29).  With the shepherds, let us bow down before the Lamb, let us worship God’s goodness made flesh, and let us allow tears of repentance to fill our eyes and cleanse our hearts.  This is something we all need!

He alone, he alone can save us.  Only God’s mercy can free humanity from the many forms of evil, at times monstrous evil, which selfishness spawns in our midst.  The grace of God can convert hearts and offer mankind a way out of humanly insoluble situations.

Justin Welby, The Archbishop of Canterbury

Jesus sets the benchmark for God’s dealing with the tyranny and cruelty of our world, for He is the Prince of Peace. We do not deny tyranny and cruelty, we do not compete with it: rather, we overcome as we allow ourselves to be defined by God’s true unveiling, transformed by His invading love.

It is this true apocalypse that we are confronted with at Christmas. It is news of God’s purposes for the world God made and sustains, purposes which are better than we can imagine. This apocalypse, this unveiling, judges every world power, reaches out to every displaced people group, every refugee, every single human heart. It begins with ourselves. Both our means and our ends must meet the standard God sets for us here.

The shepherds went and worshipped. Herod sought to kill. Today’s Herods, ISIS and the like around the world in so many faiths, propose false apocalypses. But you and I are called to respond in worship and transforming, world changing obedience, both as individuals, and together, to this revelation of the baby that defines God, for it is our response to Jesus that defines us.

Ian Poulton, Saint Patrick’s National Cathedral, Dublin

Saint Luke Chapter 2 Verse 8 tells us that, “In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Living in the fields meant not only were they on the edge of things physically, but they were also on the edge of society. Living rough lives, they simply would have been unable to observe the rigour of the Jewish ritual and dietary laws. The hundreds of laws that governed every aspect of daily life were impractical to men who lived in the harsh environment of the shepherd. Shepherds were coarse; they were unclean; they would have been shunned by the respectable religious leadership. Living in the fields, the shepherds would have felt themselves beyond religion, and that they were far from God.

Perhaps many of us feel like the shepherds, that we are far from God, or that God is far from us, but the Christmas story tells us that it is the people who are out on the edge, the people who feel they are from religious, to whom God comes. If God comes to the shepherds living in the fields, God is also present in our lives – if we want to see him there.

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz: “Christmas Sermons by the Fathers”

Pope Saint Leo the Great, the 45th Bishop of Rome, the 44th Pope after Saint Peter, once said in a Christmas homily, “Although Jesus shared in our infirmities, He was not a partaker of our sins. He took the form of a servant without the baseness of sin, raising up what was human, but not lessening what was divine. Emptying Himself, the Invisible made Himself Visible. He came down to us, to Whom we could not on our own ascend, that we might be brought back from our former bondage and from worldly errors to His eternal blessedness.”

He said the purpose of Christmas “was to give the human race a wondrous grace so that iniquity might return to the ways of innocence, old age to newness of life, strangers might be received by God as His children and without any claim be capable of entering into an inheritance, that the evil-living might begin to live righteously, the parsimonious become generous, the incontinent chaste, and the earthly might become heavenly-minded.”

May yours, dear readers, be the merriest and most blessed of Christmases. I pray that our Savior might be born anew by His grace in your souls.

Comments

  1. My favorite, from Pope Leo…

    … “was to give the human race a wondrous grace so that iniquity might return to the ways of innocence, old age to newness of life, strangers might be received by God as His children and without any claim be capable of entering into an inheritance, that the evil-living might begin to live righteously, the parsimonious become generous, the incontinent chaste, and the earthly might become heavenly-minded.”blockquote>

  2. “Perhaps many of us feel like the shepherds, that we are far from God, or that God is far from us, but the Christmas story tells us that it is the people who are out on the edge, the people who feel they are from religious, to whom God comes. If God comes to the shepherds living in the fields, God is also present in our lives…”

    That is the continuing story of grace, moment by moment throughout our day and throughout our lives. It is never boring and never rehashed because we continue to stumble and fall and He continues to show up out of nowhere to lift us and dust us off. Everything is grace, everything is mercy. You might say that God has lost control. He is uncontrollably drawn to His children, His offspring, His brood. We are only ever alone if we are unwilling to accept. Grace is never merited, only accepted.

    • Perhaps I shouldn’t say “never rehashed.” Every life has its frustrations but to quote the psalmist, “His mercies are new every morning.”

    • “We are only ever alone if we are unwilling to accept.”

      Oh, I don’t know. At the very least, there are people in the grip of mental illness who have no will to accept it; and who knows how many of us are actually in the grip of such illness, or may be one day? There are also probably other states of being, emotional and physical, that avail us of no such possibility of accepting; the older I get, the less I believe that reality is more than a little pliable to our will, even in the matter of accepting God’s constant presence in our lives.

      It’s no doubt theologically true that Jesus is always present with us, but for the most part we are not much moved by theology when we are in the grip of real suffering; at least, that’s been my experience. So I think those who are having a blue Christmas, and who are feeling very much alone, can at least maybe not beat themselves up for not being able to muster up the will to believe that they are not alone. Maybe the rest of us can just pray, and let them know that we hope, that their loneliness and blueness will pass, sooner rather than later, and love them as best we can.

  3. It’s all real nice. How many time I have wondered why I was born at a time and place where I am. How hard life has been scratching out an existence all be it with a back pack on. Still the hard work and mistakes to many to count became wisdom for me.

    Wondered if we have the right time. We have to make up things to keep a calendar to follow and then say we don’t like religion or do like religion. I have no calendar, Christmas was another day. Afterwards the let down that maybe the people coming from the festival felt.

    All wonderful words well placed and well meaning. Do they change my life here or do they just offer promise of something better down the line. Do they inspire doing something out of love or just inspire guilt and shame to do anything at all.

    Gave away a dually pick up to a poor man and it was because of a little voice. Done many things of giving because of that voice. I’m not sure if I myself carry that kind of love or am even capable of it. This young one born to this world brought something I could never have. Sometimes I wish I could look into His thoughts coming str8 from Him instead of second hand accounts.

    Not much time here as there use to be and things change more inside me than outside although keeping up is a struggle. I hope in a hundred years from now or less someone isn’t feeling like me right now. Good news on the doorstep sorry Don maybe it could have been.

  4. Lots of attempts this year to explain the meaning of Advent and Christmas to me. Not much in the way of good news along the way. Mostly admonitions, dunning, pummeling, calls to work harder, be better, do better, never forget. At least the Christ candle got lit again Christmas Eve, the high point of the service for me. It stays lit in my heart, but I’m not so sure I can handle another traditional season of joy and anticipation. Throwing out the occasional moments of high inspiration and of blowing it badly, I would grade myself thruout the year from B plus to C minus. Sure I would like to do better. I’m working on it. Jesus doesn’t seem to be upset or anything but supportive. If any religious leaders should happen to read this, hope you’re close enough to read my bumper sticker. Please Don’t Honk, I’m Peddling As Fast As I Can.

  5. Thanks for introducing me to Fr. Ian Poulton…I’ll be undoubtedly exploring his blog for some time!