“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;” (Isaiah 9:1)
Surely, many are experiencing a darkness in our times once again, and yet, this Great Light of Jesus persists. Indeed St. John tells us that Jesus is the Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) The question for us is have we discovered this Light of Christ?
Brothers and sisters, we hear in the Gospel tonight that Caesar Augustus ordered that the whole world be enrolled; that a census be taken of every person in the world. Imagine the size of such a task in those days! It was for this reason that Joseph and Mary made their way to Bethlehem where the Christ child was born. Little did Caesar Augustus know that God’s purpose was to become one of us, to be born into the human family, counted as one of us.
On this holy night Christ is born in a manger, in a lowly, hidden place. Indeed, it seems our world still has little room for Christ, and now as then, he remains unrecognized for who he truly is, the King of Kings and Savior of the world. And yet, the Lord comes, as a light in the darkness, as the ‘dawn from on high, breaking upon us, to show us the way of peace.’
I know from conversations I’ve had with people that they wonder how God sees them, if they are loved? They look at some of the realities of our world today and question if there is a God, and if there is, how can God be known as love?
Such thoughts are exactly the darkness where the Light of Christ comes to lead us into the truth of God’s love and mercy. Jesus was born into a family precisely so he can enter into human relationships to reveal the nearness of God. Our God is not distant and indifferent. We have only to open our hearts and our homes to Christ – to receive the gift of love that he freely offers. Jesus was born during a world census to make of the human family the family of God.
Clearly, each of us knows we are a member of the human family, and we need to be convinced as well that we are also members of God’s family through Jesus Christ. In Christ we are brothers and sisters, and through the salvation won for us in Christ, we come to know and believe that each of us is a beloved daughter, a beloved son of God.
When a child is born in a family today, the parents and family members cannot help wondering who this child will become. When Christ was born, Mary and Joseph were already well informed by God’s messengers that this child of theirs was holy, the Son of God who comes to save us from our sins. The Prophets foretold his many titles as well: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace. Similarly when a child is born, everyone tries to identify the family characteristics in the eyes, the hair, the nose, facial expressions. Indeed, Christ came to restore our likeness to God, in whose image each of us are made.
An angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds who were living in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were the first to hear the proclamation of Good News that a savior has been born, who is the Christ and Lord. And the sign was an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Such great news was accompanied by a host of angels singing Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to those on whom his favor rests.
For most of us, it is easy to receive a child, to hold a child, to gaze into their eyes and know pure and simple love. Tonight, we are invited to receive the Christ Child, and allow him to gaze into our eyes, that we might know pure and simple love. The love of God. The shepherds were frightened by this apparition, but with the encouragement of the messengers, they went forward and discovered Christ.
My friends, do not doubt, but believe, Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the world. Also, do not doubt, but believe, he comes to you, each of you, to claim you as his own, to claim you for the Father, as a beloved child of God, in whom the Father is well pleased. Now is our time to go forward and discover Christ.
Each of us has our own history, disappointments, and self-inflicted wounds of sin. But hear and believe again tonight, understand that this darkness was the very reason God sent his Son into the world, the very reason Jesus comes to us, in the flesh. Stand in the Light of Christ, and let his warmth and brilliance scatter your darkness and renew your hope. Even when he rose from the dead, his risen body still bore the wounds of his crucifixion. Our own wounds are precisely where the Light of Christ enters in and makes us whole. We are not perfect, and we do not need to be. Our wounds will also accompany us into death and eternal life. We need only walk by faith in Christ as the Son of God, striving for holiness which is achieved only by his grace and strength.
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;” Have you seen the Northern Lights? Have you gazed upon a full moon in the long, dark winter nights? If so, you know mystery, wonder and awe. Have you experienced the Light of Christ shattering the darkness of your life? Have you received him? Have you allowed for this work of grace and favor of God? If so, you know this Mystery, Wonder and Awe have a name, and he is Jesus Christ. And when we come to know Christ, we know that God is love, and so very near. And in that moment, we also come to know ourselves, and in the Light of God’s expansive and self-giving love, we discover that our own satisfaction can only be found in similar fashion of making a gift of our self to others – of being Light which reflects to others the Light of Christ, as a ray of light from the sun.
On this holy night, the ‘favor of God’ rests upon us. With our image and likeness renewed in Christ, let us go forth as light for the world, giving glory to God and hope to others.