Theme: A Savior is born to you
During the four weeks of Advent we have been waiting for the coming of Christmas which is now here. Two thousand years ago, the angels blessed us with news of great joy announcing that to us a Saviour who is Christ the Lord had been born in the city of David. This good news is for all the people at all times. But how do I personally embrace it as it rings out ‘joy to the world’? This is the fundamental question, because not withstanding such as an announcement, there are still many people who do not know how to make this joy their own.
First reading: Isaiah 9:1-6
Some seven hundred years before Christ, the northern kingdom of Israel met with battle, defeat and slavery. Prophet Isaiah brought good news saying that God would reverse all this and bring light and joy instead. The survivors would rejoice as if they were sharing harvest of spoils. In particular he focused hopes on a future king who would combine all virtues of the past Israel’s rulers. This was too good to be true until they were personified in Jesus Christ whose birth we are commemorating today. In our country today I can honestly assert that like in times of Prophet Isaiah most of us are still walking in darkness thus the need of light to see.
Who is light? He is Jesus Christ who alone possesses exceptional qualities. He is Wise more than King Solomon; He is a Wonder Councellor and a Prince of Peace. He alone establishes Justice and Integrity. He is valiant more than David. He is a brave warrior who challenges sin. He is a loving God to His people. He alone has broken the yoke that burdened us. He is neither violent nor cruel. Before him all the war gear has been destroyed. He is the beginning of a new era of peace, of justice, of brotherliness. If we honestly embrace his message, then peace will prevail.
Second reading: Titus 2:11-14
This second reading gives us a convenient summery of Christian faith. God’s grace personified in Christ has come into the world now instead of remaining a matter of future expectation. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, a new people has been created freed from sin and weaknesses of the past. All that is remaining is the second coming of Christ as God and Saviour who in fact is already here. Christ as God and Saviour possesses all virtues of ruler and God. As a saviour he meets all the expectations of Gentiles who looked for salvation from elsewhere. However, this reading still reminds that not all has been accomplished; much more remains to be done. Salvation for all human persons has not yet been manifested. We still need to make our lives an act of faith, love and hope thus becoming witnesses of his incarnation.
Gospel: Luke 2:1-14
Luke writes of the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the visit of the shepherds and the song of the angels. He links all these with world events by introducing Caesar Augustus the emperor who prided himself on bringing peace to the world. The story of Jesus begins with a journey to Judea because of a census. The Romans who would later crucify Jesus caused him to be born in Bethlehem in a forced census that he manages to turn into a blessing. Earlier on, David had been punished for holding a census cf. 2Samuel 24 but now because of the census Jesus is born in the City of David in a manger, the place where the animals fed, a reminder from prophet Isaiah that the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib, while Israel did not know the Lord cf. Isaiah 1:3. No wonder that during Tsunami in Indonesia a few years ago, animals sensed trouble and escaped as humans perished in their sleep while others were busy eating and drinking!
According to Luke no authorities of Israel but shepherds visited the crib. At that time most Hebrews held a view that shepherds were members of an unclean profession because of their dishonesty. Among the Hebrews, three characters would never give witness in court: the shepherd, tax collector and a prostitute. Yet, it was these marginalized individuals that Jesus dared to visit and share his ministry. The best known is Levi the tax collector, Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalene and sinners who sought out the company of Jesus. Does this scenario propose something in any of us now? If we are not people of short memory then a call for conversion is eminent.
With their wonderful voices, the angels transferred their music from heaven to earth cf. Revelation 4:9. Their words were repeated by the shepherds when they returned to the hills, thanking God for all the wonders they had witnessed. The angels’ message to the shepherds was the message of the first preachers of the gospel: Jesus our saviour, Christ the Lord born today. The shepherds did not close their hearts instead like Zacchaeus the ‘smart cheat through tax collection’ accepted the day of Salvation. Here we may have been late to receive the message of Christmas with a counted period of 1900 years. But now the same privilege has become our heritage; we have to collaborate with this life transforming truth. All we need to add a little effort and then we can experience grate joy in our lives. To know joy in our lives we need to place Jesus first in everything. Secondly, we need to please others before pleasing ourselves. That is the recipe for joy. That is how we can convert the Christmas joy to the world into a ‘joy in my life’ now and always. As we listen to the Christmas story we need to pay attention to the various people and groups mentioned and see how they participated in the joy of Christmas:
On the negative side we have the innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary out in the cold night while he enjoyed the warmth from within. There is also Herod who wanted his job security as king to the point that he was prepared to kill Jesus and other infants. On the admirable side we have the shepherds who left their flock in the bush and go to adore Jesus first and the magi, the wise men from the East who left the security of their homeland and made a long and dangerous journey to Bethlehem searching for the new born king to pay homage and give him gifts. These are the ones who receive God’s favour, the ones who experience in their hearts the true peace and joy of Christmas. Let us today resolve to follow their good example by always placing Jesus and others before self and then the joy of Christmas will always be ours.
I tend to believe that we are two groups in this our beloved Nation that define the audience meeting Jesus at His birth. On one side the poor, the ignorant, the terminally sick who recognize and immediately welcome Him with joy. On the other is the learned, rich, the powerful, those who live aloof, far from the people and their problems convinced that they know everything required to have a happy life. None of these think they need a Savior; for them a Messiah is not urgent as he does not fulfill their expectations. Remember that history is rightly divided into two parts: before and after Christ. Christmas has started a new era for all humanity whether they believe or not. Yet no body should be indifferent before Him. We all need to take a stand and make a fundamental choice for or against. When we opt for Jesus we use earthly power to serve, money to help while violence, hatred, tribalism and isolation from the truth simply give way to the truth.
We need to involve Jesus in solving our problems of poverty, disease and ignorance. Only through him can we claim to be wise Counselors when faced with family, community and national challenges. We need to truly become peace loving and not a society armed to the teeth. We need to grow honest in our deals rather than propagating crime and incurring silly debts. For good life to happen we need God’s grace which is only possible through Jesus Christ. Grace makes us give up evil and purifies us from all things that keep us hostages such as.
womanizing or men hunting?
A careless in thinking, planning and spending?
Lazy with yourself in everything?
With Jesus the Emmanuel, take a reap in new life. Be born again, receive the spirit of joy and start to live. Let Jesus change you for the better. Genuine change is not for those who believe in the status quo but those willing to take a risk of faith.