THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD (AT THE MASS DURING THE DAY) YEAR B ON DECEMBER 25, 2020 (R. 1: Isaiah 52: 7- 10; Psalm 98: 1- 6; R. 2: Hebrews 1: 1- 6; Gospel: John 1: 1- 18)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
WHY WOULD GOD DO THAT?
Once upon a time, in a farm community, there was a man who did not believe in God. His wife on the other hand, believed in God, and she raised her two daughters to believe in God. One Christmas Eve, while his wife and daughters were preparing for the Christmas Night Mass, he challenged the Christmas story. He said to his wife and daughters, “The Christmas story makes no sense. If God truly exists, why would God lower Himself to come to earth through a man called Jesus?” His wife and children smiled at him, and left for Mass.
About an hour later, the winds came, and then the snow, which turned into a blizzard. Suddenly, he heard the sound of geese. He went outside and saw several geese wandering about in the snow, cold, hungry, dazed, and confused. The man felt sorry for the geese and wanted to help them. He tried everything he knew to get the geese to go into his warm garage, but they were too frightened to understand. Then he thought to himself, “If just for a moment I could become a goose, to tell the geese in their own language how to go into my garage, so they could be safe from the harsh weather.” Then, at that moment, it suddenly dawned on him, “That is what Christmas is all about! It is the celebration of how God became one of us to speak our language, to tell us what is for our own good, to get us out of the harsh weather to safety.”
My dearly beloved in Christ, that is the story of Christmas, how God became a human being so that human beings may become divine. In today’s Gospel passage, John summarizes the Christmas story saying, “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” The Word is God, the Word was there in the beginning, and, the universe was created through the Word. We celebrate the fact that the God we serve is not an alien God. We celebrate the fact that our God does not only know what we are passing through, but he has experienced what we experience.
Is your family dysfunctional? Jesus was not just born into a dysfunctional world, his genealogy, which we read last night, has some dysfunctionality: one of his great grandmothers, Tamar, was a woman of easy virtue (cf. Genesis 38; Matthew 1:2-3). One of his great grandfathers, David, orchestrated the murder of the man, Uriah, whose wife (Bathsheba) he took (cf. 2 Samuel 11, 12; 1 Kings 1, 2). Are you homeless? Remember, there was no room in the Inn for Jesus to be born (cf. Luke 2: 7). As an adult, he said, “Foxes have dens and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Are you, or have you been a refugee or an asylum seeker? As an infant, Jesus had to seek refuge in Egypt, Africa while escaping the sword of Herod (cf. Matthew 2:13-23). Have you been betrayed by a friend? Jesus had a firsthand experience. Have you been misunderstood by your family members? At a point, some of the relations of Jesus thought he was out of his mind, and they came to take him away from the crowds because they thought he was out of his mind (cf. Mark 3:21).
He knows all we are going through, not in theory, but he went through all with us. This year’s Christmas comes with mixed feelings. We are celebrating in a way we are not used to celebrating. How can you say, “Merry Christmas” to a person who has lost lost a job, lost home, lost their business, lost relationships, lost dear ones, and lost in so many ways that I cannot name now to the current pandemic arising from COVID-19? The first Christmas after you lose someone dear to you can be very tough. The empty dinner chair takes the merry out of your Christmas. The annual Christmas present not forthcoming takes away the merry out of your Christmas. You were even on your way to the store, or online trying to order his or her favorite Christmas present, only to be rudely reminded that he or she is no more. And so the tears begin to roll down your cheeks. It is ok to cry for a moment. But your loved one would appreciate it if you can also take a moment to thank God for the Christmases you had with them.
The one we celebrate at Christmas was born to die to transform the meaning of Christian death from an end to a passage. During his public ministry, he saw our burdens and pains, and he offered us the invitation, “Come to me all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” The yoke is a wooden bar used to join two animals at the head or neck so they can pull together to till the soil. Here, Jesus is not leading from behind, nor from the front. He wants us to move in pari passu, he wants us to move side by side with him. There are many yokes, but he wants us to take his, and together, we shall take all our pains to the cross, where they will be transformed on the day of the resurrection.
In spite of all we have gone through this year, we can still say Merry Christmas because the one who is born today is the answer to all our questions. Let us take our pains to him, if he does not save us from our pains, then know that he will certainly save us through our pains. May the joy of Christmas wipe away our tears, and transform all our stumbling blocks into stepping stones until we come to our heavenly inheritance, through Christ our Lord. Amen.