4 Advent C #12
Mi 5, 1-14
Heb 10, 5-10
Lk 1, 39-45
December 20, 2009
St. Mary’s Church, Marlboro, N.Y.
Deacon Tom Cornell
Tomorrow is a turning point; the sun turns around. For the first time in six months, the day will lengthen; there will be one or two more minutes of sunlight each day for the next half year, some days even three. The sun is coming back.
Ask anyone what is the most important, the most decisive, the most pivotal event in the history of the world and you might get any number of answers. The answer will tell a lot about that person, what he or she values or thinks is important. The Battle of Marathon? The Defeat of the Spanish Armada? The Discovery of America? Penicillin? The Pill? The Bomb? Christians know that there is only one answer to that question, and that is the Incarnation. The eternal Word of God took on human flesh, became one of us in the womb of a teenage girl in Palestine two thousand years ago. We date history either A.D. or B.C., Anno Domini, in the Year of the Lord, or Before Christ. And so it should be, because the Incarnation is the dividing line, the defining event in world history, not just for Christians, but for all humankind, because “God wills that all men be saved” (1 Tim 2.4). Those who through no fault of their own have no knowledge and so no faith in Jesus as the Christ will be accepted into God’s glory at last, unless they have deliberately turned aside from Truth and Goodness and Love which is God. When Jesus prayed with his last breath, “Father forgive them,” he opened the doors of heaven to us now, to those who went before us, and those who are to come after us, for any who will have it.
A newborn, a little baby boy! We all love the image. Those of us who are parents remember so clearly the first sight of our firstborn. We look – is it a boy or a girl? Ten fingers? Ten toes? A little nose, and two eyes, one on either side. It’s amazing! Mother has come through it all, tired but happy. She holds the infant, takes it to her breast. We are so grateful, we thank God. So it must have been in that stable in Bethlehem. They wrapped the baby boy in swaddling clothes, strips of cloth to bind his arms and legs secure, and then they placed him in a feeding trough for cattle, and all the world comes to give thanks each Christmas in the crèche scene that Saint Francis popularized. All the world!
I once spent this season in Nicaragua. Not knowing the native food, I did what I always do in unfamiliar parts; I went to a Chinese restaurant. You know it’s going to be nutritious; you know more or less what you’re going to get; there will be plenty of it and it’ll be cheap. The Chinese restaurant in Managua had a life-size plastic Santa Claus standing there to greet me, artificial snow an inch above the Equator and a Nativity scene, a crèche. More Hallmark than Gospel, true, but still, it was good to see. Another Christmas, in Baghdad six years ago, in a Catholic church, with Mass in English, Iraqis and people from Africa, Europe and America, and Mother Theresa’s Sisters of Charity from India, and again, this same crèche. This Friday fifteen million Roman Catholics in Communist China will be praying and celebrating with us! Yes, Communist China, around a crèche!
Easter is the highpoint of the Christian year, the Resurrection. But the story starts here in the stable, with a lovely young girl and her baby boy, the working man Joseph, their protector and the model for Christian fathers, Jews all of them, who gave us their Bible, the Ten Commandments, the Prophets and the Promise, the Promise made to Abraham, that in his seed all peoples would be blessed (Gen 22, 18). We are now to be a blessing to them, so that when the Son comes again in full light he will be peace. He is our peace, a peace that the world can not give. Peace! Shalom! Salaam!
Have a very blessed Christmas!