Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011:

Here we are together celebrating the great feast of Christmas. Today we remember the birth of Jesus, the birth of our Savior, the beginning of salvation. It is always good for us to remember just what we say about this little baby, born 2000 years ago in that little town of Bethlehem. What do you see when you see this little baby?

Think about what we say in the creed: he is the only begotten son of God, God from God, Light from light, begotten, not made: consubstantial with the Father. These are amazing mysteries. Jesus, the little baby born in Bethlehem is consubstantial with the Father. When we look on the baby Jesus we see God. This is an amazing mystery. But, why did Jesus come? Why is that baby in the manger?

The creed says: for our sake and for our salvation. So this baby has something to do with us and our salvation. I think we can learn three things about Christ as our savior by looking at Jesus in the manger.

We learn in the book of Genesis that God created Adam and Eve, placing them in the garden so that they could live and have communion with him. Yet, through the Original Sin Adam and Eve are removed from the Garden, there is a separation between heaven and earth, between God and humanity. After Original Sin our relationship with God was ruptured. When we look at the baby Jesus in the manger we see a baby. This baby is like us, he is fully human. When we look at Jesus in the manger we see a reunion between God and humanity. In the person of Christ, God and man are united. No longer is there separation between us and God, in the person of Jesus we are again reunited. In order to save us, in order to reunite heaven and earth, Jesus became one of us. When we look at the baby in the manger we see a baby who is fully human. He is weak and helpless, he is totally dependent on his mother, in other words, he is just like us when we were babies. When the Word becomes flesh he experiences everything it means to be human so that he can heal it, purify it, and raise it to heaven. So the first thing we learn about Christ the savior is that he experienced everything that we experience so that he could be like us in all things. So when we see Jesus in the manger it reminds us that Jesus was conceived in the womb of his mother, he was born, he lived, he died, all for us and with us. In order to heal humanity he had to go to the very beginning: conception and birth. This is what we celebrate today on Christmas.

Now, look where he is. Jesus is born, not in the palace, but in the stable. He is not laid in a pristine bed, but in a lowly manger. Though he was of the house of David, Joseph and Mary were meek and poor, animals and shepherds were his first attendants. But, again, Jesus does this to show his unity with all of us. We all come from various backgrounds and upbringings. But, I would venture to guess that most of us were born in hospitals or at least in clean surroundings. I doubt there is anyone here who was born in a manger. When Jesus is born in that lowly stable, in that little town of Bethlehem he is taking his place as the lowliest of the human family. He is the Word made flesh, the glorious Son of God, but by taking the lowliest position in the human family, he raises all of us to new heights. This is the second thing we learn from the baby in the manger, we fell from grace because of the pride of Original sin, but in the baby in the manger we see the humility of Christ that destroys the pride of Original Sin.

Lastly, think a bit about this manger. We get so used to seeing it that we think nothing of it. In our nativity sets these mangers look just like cribs, but what was the purpose of a manger? A manger was a place where the farmers placed the food for the animals. Now, this seems like a practical place to put the baby since there was probably hay in the manger. But, I cannot help but think there is more to this manger than simply a nice place to lay the baby. Already, when we see Jesus in the manger he is telling us something important: I am the bread of life, whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life. This is the third lesson that Jesus teaches us from the manger: he is the bread of life given to bring us life. Even as a baby, he is prefiguring the precious gift of the Eucharist. Because just as that baby born 2000 years ago was truly the Son of God, so is this Holy Eucharist we celebrate today on the feast of Christmas the true body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. It is the same Jesus, given to us in different form.

When we see Jesus in the manger we learn many things. We learn that when Jesus takes on our humanity, he goes to the beginning so as to heal the whole of our nature. He takes the lowliest place among us to lift us to the heights of heaven. But, he doesn't stop there, even as a baby he gives himself as our food for eternal life. As we now turn to celebrate this Holy Eucharist, we give thanks and praise to God our Father who sent his Son Jesus into the world to be our savior.

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