Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Scripture Readings: Is. 52:7-10; Heb. l: 1-6; Jn. l: 1-18
The readings of this morning’s liturgy are very formal, sober, and full of content. They present us with a proclamation of salvation history, emanating from within the mystery of God and continuing through the exaltation and enthronement of Christ. A little heavy, especially in comparison with the appealing narrative in Luke’s gospel that we have heard earlier this day. Those descriptions of the birth of Christ have been woven into the imagination and traditions of our religion. Our family rituals are centered around a feast of a God who has come close to our own humanity. Our rituals celebrate this connection we have been given with God and the connections we want to maintain with our personal family and the wider family of mankind. There is a spontaneous desire to express these connections, to share with others: to give gifts, to send cards to people we haven’t thought about all year, to greet strangers on the street, to share time and meals with those we love.
We are readily caught up into this “Christmas spirit” in which it seems so natural to share. We instinctively know that we have been told good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Joy lives and thrives in being shared. You don’t want to “keep it for yourself.” We jump across boundaries. Self-concern and self-protection vanish in the exquisite experience of joy which feeds on manifest goodness and beauty. We willingly lose something of ourselves for the better good of entering into communion with others.
This is all well and good for the time of Christmas. But sober reality tells us that it has its limits. We need to return to the practicalities of life, to reasonable and sane caution in the use of our time, money, and energy. We should not mistake the excess of the moment for a pattern of life. The ideals of universal peace, inclusive justice, the family and brotherhood of human life are wonderful ideals. But they cannot be interpreted as making any concrete demands on our own way of living. To attempt to live as if this could be reality would jeopardize and possibly destroy our own security and what makes us who and what we are.
Perhaps that is why we need to stand under this proclamation of God that this is precisely what he means. God has spoken to us through his Son. Christ has put himself fully into his Word. The Word has become flesh. It reveals what is the real nature and potential of humanity. The world has changed once and for all through the incarnation of the Son in our humanity. By his sharing in our humanity, he has restored it to its true nature, its true potential, its true vision and ideals. In today’s Collect, we prayed that we may share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity. That means that our humanity is a capacity to act as Christ, a capacity for God. It is probably easier to believe that the man Jesus of Nazareth was the Word of God than that we have been made sharers in that divinity. Our very use of the word “share” has become dulled by our prosaic and limited understanding of what it means to share. We think of “sharing a pizza” as each person having his/her own piece. Or click on the computer: “share with a friend.” “Thanks for sharing” as an uncomprehending response to someone’s divulging a long-held secret.
When we share out of our own need to be in communion with others, we have a more authentic sense of the transformation that is at stake in this exchange. It is exquisite joy when what we share is accepted and changes lives. It is excruciating pain when what we have offered of our self is ignored or treated as chopped liver. But we are closer to our true nature when we acknowledge and act upon our own need to share and our need to have others share life with us. It is within our power to act against our own nature — with hearts that act against themselves. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. It is of God’s nature to share. The Trinity is joy shared. This is the nature that we now share with God in Christ. It has changed the world.
This is now the real world, the one sustained by His Word. We celebrate Christmas because we need to learn how to live from our true nature which has been restored by Christ’s sharing his nature with us. Belief does not blind us to reality with false illusions. Belief is the only access to reality as it exists in the vision and imagination of God. We will forget, slip into self-protective behaviors, recoil from our felt vulnerabilities and injuries, and find ourselves saying that it is easier not to believe than to believe. But we can return to living from that transformation of our human nature that we receive from Christ’s sharing his very being with us. To all those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God…. those who were born of God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. It is of our nature to be peacemakers in this world, to restore it with Christ to that image and vision that God has of it