Last evening I was visiting friends who had children and grandchildren and Santa Claus came by thanks to the RVC Fiore Department. Later at Midnight here in this Cathedral we joined the whole world to hear the Angels sing good news of glad tidings that a child is born to us in a stable in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. And today we gather here to worship God and give thanks because that child has a name, a name above all other names, Jesus the Christ, Prince of peace, Savior of the world.
Because he is born of a woman, like each and every one of us, Jesus becomes one with every human being. No one is excluded from this great day. Everyone is a brother or sister to the child born of Mary. Because he is the only begotten Son of God, he does more than any other human could do. He alone can save us from our sins and even from death itself. And so the Father sent him, to be one like us, so that our salvation would come not from a stranger, not from a theory or a philosophy but from the one who said, “A body you have fitted for me. Behold I come to do your will”.
Gathered here this day or watching on television, we seek to let this great mystery become ever more deeply a part of our lives. We come to worship the God who so loved the world that He sent His son. We come to give thanks that our lives have been touched and changed by his life, born of the Virgin. And in so doing we come to know more deeply who we are and who God call us to become if the birth of His son in the fullness of time is to have meaning and make a difference in our world, in our society, our parishes, our families, our hearts today.
We know his name. We believe he came. We rejoice in God’s favor. We open ourselves to him. But what does it mean? John the theologian invites us to understand this more deeply with the opening words of His Gospel. In the beginning was the Word, the word through whom God created the world, the Word who is with the Father. What God is the Word is. And that Word, the eternal Word of the Father, is the now the Word made flesh to save all humankind. The Word breaks through the distance that separates God from us. The Word is the powerful bearer of life and light into a world of darkness and death. The Word makes evident the difference between those two choices, life and light versus sin and death. For the Word is not only true. THE WORD OF GOD IS TRUTH IN HIS VERY BEING.
Herein is the paradox that surrounds us. The world came into being through the Word. Yet the world does not know him. In fact the world ignores him or ridicules him or denies him. The world has turned its back on the very source of existence: the Word made flesh. In the fullness of time that Word, that Truth, comes as a child, totally immersed into our life so that we might choose His life and so live in light and truth, goodness, harmony, joy and peace.
How much the world needs this Word, the Word of God, the Word of truth! And that is a further reason why we who are gathered here today are called to do more than give thanks and go home. We are called to renew our faith and thus strengthen our witness to the light, to the truth, to the word, to the Son of God. Today as we rejoice with family and loved ones, with children and elderly, we must be truth bearers and light bearers, bearers of the child Jesus in our world. We can do so with confidence because truth has sprung up from the earth giving us hope, kindness, justice and peace.
Today Pope Benedict appealed for peace in Syria, wounded and divided by a civil conflict that is made even worse by bloodshed aided by terrorism and by countries, including our own, who supply arms and means that destroy lives and create refugees. With him we appeal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians, an end to violence that bases itself on false appeals to religion in Africa and other parts of the world. We seek political leaders who will uphold freedom for all and respect for every ethnic and religious group around the world. We pray that they will eschew disturbing means such as drones and indiscriminate use of weapons in their attempts to subdue others who themselves resort to violence.
Violence has become a hallmark of our own society. We here have born the brunt of a natural disaster and have shown to one another, especially those suffering from the hurricane, the true face of Jesus in our care for them and our generosity toward those in need. How horrendous is the reality that struck Newtown and brought death to 26 persons, 20 of them little children. But as a society how much have we become immune to violence that comes is so many shapes and forms? The violence of video games, the violence of film and television, the violence of hate speech and coarse humor that degrades others and insults the dignity of us all.
And what of the very freedom we are exercising right now by being here? I mean of course the first freedom, the freedom of religious belief and practice in society? Government exists to protect life and liberty, not to amend it or force it into compromises that contradict teachings of faith or the consciences of persons and institutions. We who love our country must show we love it by defending freedom of religion against any and all overt or subtle attacks on that first freedom.
Many Christmases ago, St. Augustine, meditating on this wondrous gift of Christ said to the faithful in his cathedral these words I make my own: Truth who is Jesus will set you free…That is why Truth whose birthday is today has sprung from the earth in order to be peace on earth and good will to all.
My friends we do not live in darkness but in light, the light that shone forth from a Bethlehem stable, that light that enlightens all the world with his life, his truth, his Peace.
And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we saw his Glory, the Glory as of the Father’s only Son full of grace and truth.