In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!!
Together, we’ve spent so many weeks, since the Sunday of Pentecost, learning from the Gospels how very persistently the scribes and Pharisees attempted at every turn to entrap the Lord, to get Him to make a verbal or functional error, so that they might be able to accuse Him, to give them leverage to destroy Him. In today’s Gospel, we come to learn that this didn’t begin with our Lord’s beginning His ministry at the age of 30. It began with His birth.
We spoke on Friday morning about how many miracles we are witnesses to in the Lord’s Incarnation. There are the miracles associated with the Theotokos, of her conception, of her holding the Creator of all within her body, of her painless birth giving, and of her remaining a virgin after giving birth. There are the miracles associated with the Star, how it came to be by the Will of God, how it traveled in the night skies to indicate a particular place where the Word of God in the flesh could be found by those who knew how to seek Him. There are the miracles of the Magi themselves, to whom God revealed such wisdom, and into whose hearts God placed a deep love such that these men were compelled to travel to seek not only Truth, but to seek their Creator in the Flesh. There is the human incongruity of aged men, these Magi, offering worship to a child! There is the miracle that is the Angelic Choir singing His arrival such that the shepherds, the most simple of people in the world, heard their proclamation, and having His birth revealed to them, came to find Him as the Angels had said.
There are more miracles. Tradition holds that a midwife came after the child was born, and Joseph told her that the Child was the result of a virgin birth. She disbelieved, and her hand withered. Remaining to aid in the process, as she bathed the Child, her hand was restored. And what of the angelic visitations to Joseph, to tell him not to send Mary away as an adulteress, but to take her into his house, for her child was of the Holy Spirit. And in today’s Gospel he was visited again warning him to take them and flee to Egypt, and yet once more to instruct him to take them back to Israel, and also one final time to take them to Nazareth.
How many miracles! It is virtually impossible to find “the normal” in amongst God overcoming nature and imposing His will – for the sake of the salvation of simple people, you and me.
We speak of these accounts, and we as Christians accept them without question. They are part of the “fabric” of who we are as a people. They are the account of our “family tree”, the description that is the “history” of how we’ve come to be God’s people. And as such, we accept them totally. The world? The world tells us these are fairy tales, things that make no human sense, and therefore have no place in anyone’s rational beliefs.
The difference between the two perspectives is that WE believe in a God Who can and Who does as He wills. It matters not at all if the things that He chooses to do follow some semblance of a human pattern that our minds can understand or accept as logical. Want an example? Human reason has a long-standing saying: A thing cannot be in two places at the same time. But God is beyond time, outside of time. Indeed, He can and does occupy all places at all times.
And so it comes down to a simple question of faith. “In what do you have faith?”
It seems to be a simple question at first glance. But to what is it directed? For instance, I have faith in my doctor (or, at least I should look for a doctor in whom I can have faith). I have faith in my car, that it will start in the morning, and get me back and forth to and from work and church. I have faith in my wife that, regardless of conditions, she will do that which her love for me tells her is in my (and sometimes not her) best interest.
Now, these are three examples. The first is an example of faith in a person’s education, integrity and ability. The second is an example of faith in a physical thing. The last is an example of faith in something that transcends the personal. It includes the divinely blessed union of people for the purpose of their helping one another to gain access to the kingdom of heaven. It is a belief in the spiritual connection of two physical beings.
You can ask, “Why this question today, father?” Why? Because the world would attempt to convince you that there are many shades of grey, there is no black, there is no white. In short, there is no singular truth nor singular good. The spectrum between good and evil is broad, the world would have us believe.
But it is not so with God. There is a judgment coming, and that judgment will carry a verdict, an eternal sentence to joy or torment, to heaven or hell. And if the ending of the judgment is black and white, we must know that the life lived to the point of being judged is a life lived as black or white.
Our Lord’s incarnation brings God to His creation, to earth. He agrees to take on the form, the body that our sinfulness has corrupted. It is not the eternal body once given to Adam and Eve. Their bodies became corrupt when sin entered the world. And we are inheritors of their flesh, which is now the same flesh God chooses to be clothed in Himself. He takes our flesh so that He can restore us to the incorruptible realm. How?
He gives us commandments to follow where He has led. We must be born again of water and the Spirit. We must eat His flesh and drink His blood. We must love our neighbors. We must love our enemies.
We live in these ways by the faith we are focused upon. If our faith is in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we are on the path. If our faith is fervent, we attempt to live the life He created us to live. We recognize the talents He has given us, and we use them to His increase, talents employed as blessings to ourselves but also to others, whom He has called “the least of His brethren.” If our faith is fervent, we live not from meal to meal, but from chalice to chalice, desiring noting more than to be in that living communion with Him which He left us as the means of always being in His presence.
The Body laying in a manger today is the Body that will be suspended on the Cross in a few short months. It is the Body that He will by His grace and love for us place into the Chalice behind me that He gives us as “real food” (John 6:55)
The faith that accepts God becoming Incarnate for our salvation is the SAME faith as that which believes in His death on the Cross and His Resurrection on the third day. It’s the same faith that holds to His Ascension, to His being equally one of the Holy Trinity. It is the same faith that was gifted to us by pious fathers and mothers. It is the same faith that we are charged by our Lord to pass on – unmodified by the “wisdom” of our times – to our children until His time of return arrives.
And it all begins with not just belief in, but embracing the truth of God working miraculously in the world. He did so at the time of creation. He did so in the time of the Israelites. He did so at his Incarnation through to His Ascension. He did so through the times of the Apostles and through the ages of the Church. He does so even today.
But today, we embrace His miraculous Incarnation, a love for mankind so great that He deigns to leave Heaven, and to come here, among His fallen creation, to reclaim it – in His love for mankind.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!