Christmas Homily of Bishop Perry

We wish each of you a blessed Christmas.  May it mean the birth of Jesus in the manger of your heart with all His healing and comfort and love for you and for those you hold dear.

Our homes and apartments welcome family, relatives and friends for good cheer and good food and good fellowship that befits the season.  Similarly, the church welcomes many who are guests as well as those who are not regulars.  Even among the regulars there are, most likely, many shades of faith.  This may be because our faith has been bruised a bit by a failed marriage, or by our children’s fall from faith despite our prayers, or by the scandal of religious hate and terrorism, or by the misdeeds of leadership, or by the growing secularization of society which whittles away at our spiritual core.  A lot of issues are at stake here, seemingly.

Those of us who are not regular churchgoers may be so for no greater reason than that we’ve lost the habit of it somewhere along the road of our clock-driven lives.  In all of our cases, the heart has its reasons for whatever deep or shallow faith we swim in.  Let me say this day of the Christ feast that the Church wishes to be your support and to embrace you in some small or large way.

All of us came here to church tonight despite our varying degrees of faith.  This means that the Christmas mystery still says something to you, whatever your motives are for being here. 

We may wonder if we’re really here just to please the spouse or the kids, or to keep tongues from wagging or because of custom, sentiment, nostalgia, or the ghost of a dearly loved churchgoing grandmother.  Perhaps, it doesn’t matter all that much.  Perhaps, any one of these less than perfect motives is, nonetheless the grace that God uses to draw us here in worship so that he may touch us once more with his love.

There is a lot of competition out there running up against the sacred narrative we unravel tonight.

You may have read items on the internet telling you that Christmas is just the Christian makeover of an old pagan feast – such as the birth of the sun in ancient Egypt which was said to occur on our Christmas night.  You may wonder if Christmas is just the echo of an earlier non-Christian form of winter celebration.  You may wonder if Christmas is largely based on the gathering long ago of the family, the tribe, around a huge, roaring fire to affirm life at the lowest time of the year and to shake a collective fist to the face of the frosty god of winter.  You may wonder if Christmas is merely a festival of lights and presents and good food and good feeling that even atheists dabble in.

But, the Christmas gospel proclamation we Christians have copyright to says that Christmas is much more.  They say it’s the celebration of the mystery of God’s love for you and for me.  Christmas means that God’s love took human form in the baby born in the stable at Bethlehem of Judea. In this way, God made his invisible love of us visible, his intangible heart tangible.  And each of you has come despite the lateness of the night to hear the sacred story told yet again how God has wrapped us in his love.

The apostle John, in particular, speaks of Christmas with the hindsight of the years he spent in the company of the Christmas child that grew up and became Jesus of Nazareth.  It is John’s experience of Jesus that allows him to tell us that the Christmas infant tonight is more than a helpless babe in the straw.  The infant is the human form of the Word of God, full of grace and truth. 

The life and the ministry of the adult Jesus proved it for John.  Jesus turned out to be the forgiveness of God for sinners and God’s warmth and love and light in the darkness of our winter world.

Jesus turned out to be the power by which answers are given to age-old questions that trouble our friends and contemporaries and maybe even ourselves at times.  What’s it all about?  Why am I here?  What might give deeper meaning and purpose to my life?  Who can guarantee me a future beyond the grave?

John found his answers in the baby of Bethlehem who became Jesus of Nazareth.  We and our questioning, skeptical friends can too.  In Jesus we are able to live lives of purpose and fulfillment and inner joy.  Jesus is the pattern and the power of what each one of us is called to be and can be: namely, a graced human being, a child of God, a person with purpose, someone with a future.

There is much that works as so many distractions from our grasp of these truths.

These are anxious times and many have lost jobs and economic security in these days.  It is an anxious time.  The holy scripture would remind us that the times within which Jesus was born were also anxious times where a subjugated people had just about run out of hope.  That hope given an answer by the birth of Jesus Christ remains with us sealed in our faith and the community of the Church which is awaiting his second coming.

These times remind us that all that we place our hopes and dreams upon on this earth is transient and temporary, that our God in Jesus is the only object of a hope fulfilled.  That means that we are to invest in those realities that secure the kingdom for us now and in the future, realities that indeed last beyond the grace, namely, our relationships with each other and the faith that brings us together at least weekly to rehearse His Word and nourish ourselves with his sacrament while awaiting that day when he arrives to take us with Him.

May these truths keep us thankful this season and imbue all our festivity with an inner peace and serenity in the name of Christ the Savior.  For we are worthwhile.  Christmas means that we are very worthwhile in Gods eyes.  For all our bruises, our worries and anxieties, for all our failures and our sins and whether we are regulars or irregulars with our faith and at Sunday worship, we are called by God and we are the beloved of God. You and I, dear friends, are worth the Christmas that God’s love makes possible for us.  That is what the infant in the manger is telling each one of us this blessed Christmas night. 