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Bishop's Homily for Christmas

December 25, 2017

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace (Mass during the Night); Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa (Mass during the Day)]

If a man is preparing to propose marriage to a woman, very often he thinks of the most romantic way he can do so.  The setting must be just right, perhaps a place that has special meaning for the couple.  Maybe there will be candles and flowers.  Perhaps some special background music will be playing, or there may even be a serenade.  Then the would-be groom will rehearse the words he will say, so that they are expressive of his love for his beloved and his desire to spend the rest of his life with her.  This is something so special that it should not be done in writing, but with a living word that takes flesh in the heart of the beloved.  And when her heart is moved and she says, “Yes!” there is such joy that it can make stars move.

So it was when God decided to wed himself to human beings forever by becoming one of us.  It was not enough for him simply to be acknowledged as our Creator, worthy of our worship and adoration, but still above us as high as the heavens are above the earth.  He loved us so much that he wanted to become one of us, to unite himself so intimately to us that forevermore God and humanity would be one.  He hoped that this was something we would want as well, though he had many proofs that we could easily rebuff him, as we had so often before, and choose to try to live life on our own without him.  So he planned over centuries how he would woo us, captivate our hearts, and allow him to be received into them.  He sent prophets and preachers to prepare the way, to call us from our distractions with the sins that seemed to be so satisfying so that we could know that nothing would truly satisfy us but his own love.  He sent angels to prepare the right setting, to make sure that everything he ever promised would fall together on that special night when he would wed himself to us.  He had the angels rehearse before him again and again the song of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  God’s joy and anticipation moved a star that wise men would follow to join in the wonder of the wedding feast.  He had the emperor decree a census, so that the wedding would take place in the City of David, Bethlehem, a name that means “House of Bread.”  He made sure there was no place to stay there except a stable, with a feeding trough for animals, so that there he might become food for the soul of his wild beloved.  He chose shepherds to come to the wedding so that their sheep, which were raised so that they could lay down their lives to give warmth and nourishment to human beings, could bow down before the most wonderful sacrificial Lamb that ever graced any flock.  He chose the holiest of young women to give flesh to his special token of love and fidelity, no mere ring brilliant with some dull diamond, but the very light of light.  And in the still of midnight, God wed himself to us forever.  The Word of his long-ago spoken promise became flesh and dwelt among us.  The very skies were rent with rejoicing and gladness, a gladness that has been sung in one continuous song for two millenia since that wonderful night when God became one with humanity.

As with any marriage, however, the romance of courtship and the magic of the moment of union can often be obscured by distractions.  We who were forever married to God in the person of Jesus still forget who we are and whose we are.  We assert our independence rather than our dependence on the one who is love itself, and so we unintentionally become unloving.  We forget that we are married to the light, and we choose instead to walk in the darkness of sin.  We become complacent with the gift of living bread that was first given to us in the manger and now is given on the altar, and so we fill ourselves with junk foods that we think will satisfy but that only leave us bloated with pride and unhealthy in our relationships.  We forget the tune of “Peace on earth” and fall into discordant violence in our homes, in our streets, and among countries of the world.  We seek after sex, wealth, and power, and forget that in our greatest moment of profound union with the beloved, love came to us through a chaste virgin, in poverty, and in the midst of incredible humility.

Yet God does not forget, and he gives us this reminder every year so that the spark can be rekindled, so that the songs of peace can be sung once again, and so that at least we can gaze once more into the eyes of our beloved and remember the great drama of romance that he planned when he wanted to be one with us forever.  He asks us now to teach that song to others who have not yet heard it; to speak his eternal Word to those who have closed their ears to it; to invite them into the drama of his love.  And as he calls us to remember that great day when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, he gives us this memorial of his self-giving love, so that here he can feed us once again and change us from the beasts we know we can be to the beloved ones that he has made us in Jesus our Savior.  He sends us out to join in a now unending chorus with the angels and all creation, singing everywhere we go with a thousand different tunes “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”