Sermons

Summary: How do we make Christ present again in our world as Wonder Counselor, God Hero, Prince of Peace?

Christmas Midnight Mass 2014

Thirteen Days of Christmas

“Why do the nations rage? Why do the peoples think foolishness?” These words of the second psalm are sung in today’s Introit. They are Messianic words that follow the antiphon which the Church has always put into the lips of the Infant Jesus: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son, this day I have begotten You.’” We come together tonight to celebrate and make present the historical and mystical coming into the world of the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.

This incredible event, the assumption of human nature into the Godhead, is one of the best attested historical realities of the ancient world. It took place, we best estimate, two thousand eighteen years ago, in a poor village with a great patrimony, Bethlehem. It is the city of King David’s birth, he who was the greatest king of Israel up until this day. Now I know that so-called “scholars” just about every year at this time get some revisionist account published that casts doubts on the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. But such historicism studies the individual trees with such nit-picking precision that they miss the existence of the forest. All human history swings around that night, which is this night. So go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is born. A son is given to us: Wonder-Counselor, God-hero, Father-forever and Prince of Peace.

He is the Wonder Counselor. What is His counsel? We would do well to meditate on His words today. The program He set out for us as the map of our lives is called the Beatitudes. It’s His own way of life laid out for us to imitate: be poor in spirit, humble as He, ready to serve others in His name. Be meek. The power we seek is the power of attraction, not the power of force. Be peacemakers, reconcilers. Forgive others even before they ask for forgiveness, even if they continually do us harm. Suffer their wrongs with Christ and for the reconciliation of humanity with God. Be pure of heart–respect the dignity of others, never using them for your own pleasure or advancement. Encourage them instead. Live temperately, justly and devoutly. Love one another as Christ has loved us.

He is the God-hero. What is His heroic act? St. Paul told the Philippians: he emptied Himself, taking on the identity of a slave, a servant to all, and accepting a slave’s death on a cross. But this heroic act by God the Son earned Him the name above all other names, Kyrios, “Lord.” He “gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness.” He turned his instrument of torture and death into an eternal throne.

He is the Father forever. How can one who never married, who begot no children, be the eternal father? Through His sacrifice, in which blood and water flowed from his pierced heart, He “cleansed for himself a people as his own,” us. The Church was born from His side in the waters of baptism, and the blood of the Eucharist. He came, as the Liturgy of the Hours says, to gather together all people. When we come to communion tonight, we come to take Him into our hearts and souls and bodies. We are transformed together into the Body of Christ whom we receive. The scattering of the nations at the Tower of Babel is reversed right here.

He is the Prince of Peace. When deacons everywhere tonight say “Go in the peace of Christ,” we are really telling the Church to go and share the peace that rules our hearts with those who do not live in peace. That is particularly true today. At Christmas, when families come together, all the years of heartache and toil and argument can gather with them. Old rivalries over inheritances, old blowups centered on a fifty year-old romance, old divorces, December deaths, neglect, abuse, all can simmer beneath the surface and even erupt into new Donnybrooks. But Christ is the Prince of Peace. Working in you, His Spirit can keep you quiet when you should not speak up, or help you say a word of forgiveness and reconciliation when it is needed. Let Christ be the Prince of Peace in your family and neighborhood.

So on this glorious night of Nativity, when Jesus comes to earth again by the words of Christ spoken by the priest in his very person, let’s rejoice. As the Offertory chant sings today: “let the heavens be joyful, and the earth exult, before the face, the presence of the Lord, for He is come.”

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