Summary: Jesus Christ was not the Messiah expected by the Jews, but He was exactly what mankind needs.
Christmas Day Mass 2014
Thirteen Days of Christmas
“A child is born for us, and a son is given to us; his scepter of power rests upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Messenger of great counsel.”
These words from today’s Introit chant are the keynote for our Christmas celebration. We have been preparing for it for months, haven’t we? All the stores began playing Christmas music right after Hallowe’en, if not earlier. Fir trees and garland decked their aisles and displays. Oh, out of political correctness and respect for diversity, most of them carefully avoided the use of the word “Christ,” didn’t they? But everyone knew what was going on, and some of us even defiantly said “Merry Christmas” or even “Blessed Christmas,” over the Advent days. And some of us will continue to do so over the next twelve days.
But the first Christmas was nothing like that. Then, godless secular powers ruled, as they do today. The Son of God, through whom the Father made all things, was even hunted down. His family barely escaped the massacre of infants in the area of Bethlehem, an infanticide ordered by the evil and jealous King Herod. His birth at Bethlehem, rather than Nazareth, was a result of a worldwide or regional census ordered by tyrants. When his family returned from exile in Egypt, they had to carefully avoid certain political territories because of the murderous secular authorities of the day. Yes, to call Jesus a King was an act of insurrection.
The reason for this is that the Messianic hope was alive in the hearts of faithful Jews. Each had grown up in synagogues where the Messiah’s reign was anticipated, where the prophecies of that rule were read from Isaiah frequently. Indeed, when Jesus grew up, he read from such a scroll: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and told the assembly that the prophecy was being fulfilled in their hearing.
But on that same day, Scripture tells us that the same assembly drove Jesus out of town to the brow of a hill, intending to throw Him over the edge and kill Him. Once Jesus admitted to the procurator Pontius Pilate that He is a King, His doom was sealed. Pilate ordered the sarcastic title “Jesus Christ, King of the Jews” to be placed over Jesus’s head on the cross. The Jews demanded that he take it down, but he–no friend of Jews–refused, saying “quod scripsi, scripsi”: what I have written, I have written.
Jesus was Messiah, the Anointed One and Chosen of God, but He was not the kind of Messiah the Jews expected or wanted. The man they wanted as King and Messiah was someone who would unite the warring factions of the Jews, mount a rebellion against the Romans, inspire a general revolt across the Roman empire, and restore the great kingdom of David and Solomon. They wanted the kind of Messiah who would fix things by political chicanery, economic manipulation, and bloody combat. In other words, just as we rebelled at the beginning against the plan of God, a plan to make us in God’s own image, so we rebelled against God’s plan for the restoration of divine rule. Jesus is a Messiah who changes hearts, not political systems. He conquers sin and death by love, not war. He gathers together through the action of His Holy Spirit, a spirit of love. He does not manipulate people against their wills; he changes minds and wills to conform to the Father’s plan for humanity.
Yes, as John tells us, “He came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him, but to those who did accept Him, He gave power to become children of God.” Not human will but the divine will is what is needed to repair wounded humanity.
So today we come together to express our faith in that new kind of Messiah, born not in a palace but in a hole in the ground, placed not in a royal baby bed but an animals’ feed-box. Yes, the Son of God was born in a manger because He is the Bread of Life, the true Bread come down from heaven. And today, as we receive Him, Body, Blood, Soul, Divinity, we pray that He remake us into His own image, and truly change the world, one family at a time, into what the Father has wanted for mankind from the beginning. Thus, all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of God.