Summary: A homily considering the choice we must make when Christ comes near.

“Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

‘A voice was heard in Ramah,

weeping and loud lamentation,

Rachel weeping for her children;

she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.’” [1]

“Whenever I speak, I cry out,

I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’

For the word of the LORD has become for me

a reproach and derision all day long.

If I say, ‘I will not mention him,

or speak any more in his name,’

there is in my heart as it were a burning fire

shut up in my bones,

and I am weary with holding it in,

and I cannot.”

[JEREMIAH 20:8, 9]

Jeremiah protested his appointment as a prophet. Much as was true for Jeremiah, so I find myself disturbed at what the Lord commands me to say. I want to be positive, to be uplifting, but I cannot. It is as though I hear the Prophet Amos assert:

“The lion has roared;

who will not fear?

The Lord GOD has spoken;

who can but prophesy?”

[AMOS 3:8]

Christmas has become a family celebration within western culture. This is a time when families look forward to being together. Families gather for a sumptuous meal and to reveal love for one another through exchanging gifts. Grandmas will be busy in kitchens preparing the feasts and grandpas are plotting how to spoil their grandchildren. Dads and moms have been busy for weeks buying gifts, putting the Christmas tree in place and decorating the house in bright, holiday colours. Christmas will be a special time once again as family ties are strengthened and traditions hoary with the patina of love of family will be practised once more.

In the midst of the seasonal joy, we often hear sincere expressions of concern that there are people within our society who will be forgotten despite the holiday festivities. Prisoners will be overlooked, even by their families. Homeless individuals, some living on the streets through unimaginable and unexpected reversals of fortune, will have nowhere to go for Christmas. These neglected individuals will be forgotten in their unending struggle to find warmth in the midst of another cold winter day. Others who have become estranged from family will be forgotten.

Underlying the gaiety of the holiday is an inescapable sense of sorrow—sorrow that is intense, even if transient. The thought persists that some individuals will have no family with whom they can share the day. It is often forgotten, or perhaps our neglect is deliberate, that one result of the birth of the Christ was deep sorrow; it was a time when some families were rent apart in the most horrible way imaginable. Unimaginable grief attended the first Christmas for some families.

How could the birth of the Christ child, the Son of God appointed to bring salvation to all who will receive that divine gift, be the cause of such sorrow? Many have forgotten that the presence of the Christ is divisive. Jesus stunned His disciples one day when He sternly warned, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” [MATTHEW 10:34-39].

Apparently, His warning was not embraced any more readily then than it is embraced now. Jesus would be compelled to iterate this worrisome warning again when He would warn, “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” [LUKE 12:51-53].

Remember, the angels message as recorded in the English Standard Version was,

“Glory to God in the highest,

and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.”

[LUKE 2:14]

I am well aware that older translations of the Bible spoke of peace and good will toward men. However, the Greek underlying our English translations doesn’t support the concept of universal peace and divine good will. The peace of God is promised to those with whom God is pleased.

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