|December 25, 2018, Christmas - Mass During the Day|
Do you hear what I hear?
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
There were two brothers, Justin and his younger brother Matt who were spend the night at their grandparents a few weeks before Christmas. When it came time for bed, they went upstairs, put on their pajamas, and got into bed. After a few minutes, Matt got out of bed, knelt down beside it and began to pray, in a very loud voice: "Please God, let grandma and grandpa get me a bike for Christmas" He prayed it twice more, each time saying it more loudly. Justin finally turned to Matt and said, "Matt why are you yelling? God is not hard of hearing!" Matt replied, "I know that; but Grandma and Grandpa are!"
I wonder if the incarnation, the second person of the blessed Trinity becoming human, making his dwelling among us might not be God recognizing that we humans are hard of hearing. Someone once said that God has only spoken one Word throughout all eternity: the Word; a Word of love and forgiveness and longing for every human being to enjoy being in love with God. As the author of the letter to the Hebrews put it in our second reading: In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son. What is also clear is that for all of human history, we women and men have more often than not, failed to hear that word. And I would suggest that we don't hear God's w\Word because we have already formed words in our minds that contradict that Word.
For close to two thousand years, God tried to get his chosen people to understand who God is and how God wants us to live. But we humans are a pretty stubborn bunch. We kept trying to make God over in our image, misunderstanding God as a powerful King who demanded tribute, in money, or food, or even human lives in order to keep God happy. Or we misunderstood God as a stern judge, ready to pounce on any one who did anything wrong and punish him. Or we misunderstood God as mighty warrior, who would fight for us against our enemies as long as we belonged to the right people, or said the right prayers, often enough or loud enough.
Despite God speaking to us in so may ways, we thought we could manipulate God into doing our bidding by offering sacrifices or building big temples. We thought that God only loved the rich and the powerful. We thought God was separate from our lives and only accessible through big festivals or displays of piety or in big temples or churches. And we wait for God to come again in glory to make everything right in this world.
So if God really became human in order to shout what God was really like, and what God's plan for salvation really is, what do we hear in this Christmas story?
If I understand God as the one who is going to do everything for salvation, what is God saying when we hear God waiting for Mary to say yes to the invitation to give a human life to God? What does it mean that God is radically dependent on the yes from this young woman? Mary is the least of the least: a woman in a culture that assigns no value at all to women; in a culture that is on the fringes of the known world, controlled by the powerful Roman Empire? And yet here is God holding God's breath for Mary's answer. And what is God saying when Jesus comes as a tiny baby, completely dependent on humans for his very survival? .
If I understand God as someone who is asking us to do great big things to spread the good news, what is God saying by coming in human form at time and a place where he had no power, no influence, no technology for getting the message out to a wide audience? When the among the first to hear of his birth are shepherds, who were the lowest most despised rung on the social ladder. And the disciples he gathered were fishermen and tax collectors and the apostles he sent to spread the good news were a Samaritan woman married 5 times and Mary Magdelene and the 11 disciples who denied him and ran away at the first sign of trouble?
If I understand that God is about punishment and identifying who is a sinner, what is God saying when Jesus returned love and forgiveness for hate and injury? When he died rather than resort to power and vengeance?
And if I think that belonging to a faith community is not important, what is God saying when he gathered a small group of friends and taught them to continue what he started?
So on this joyful feast of Christmas, I would ask you to say two prayers. The first is for those who work so hard to make our collaborative a true incarnation of God's Word of love and forgiveness here in Stow and Acton and Boxboro in 2019, that they continue to try to make it easier for anyone who wants to, to fall in love with God. The second is for those who find themselves distant from the Church, that they may have an open heart and mind to see if God is calling them to become an active part of this Body of Christ. God knows we can use the help! Which ever group you put yourself in, thank you for being here today to celebrate Christmas. May we all continue to experience God's love and forgiveness.
Do you hear what I hear?