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Homily for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day)

December 25, 2020

Fr. Joseph Jacobi

Words make a difference. Words have power!

The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” is actually not true. Words have the power to hurt, especially when they come from the mouth of a loved one. Words have the power to diminish and demean, especially when spoken with hatred. Words have the power to wound, as gossip does so easily.

But words also have the power to heal— “I forgive you.” Words have the power to bind one to another in a lasting promise— “I will be true to you until death do us part.” Words have the power to create new worlds—talented novelists do this all the time.

Words spoken at the right time and in the right way bring us together. Words inspire us to step out of our small, self-centered world into the larger, more beautiful world of self-giving service.

Words can lead us to forsake selfishness, to sacrifice for others, and to do this together. Words challenge us to ask not what my country can do for me but what I can do for this country of mine. The right words remind us that the gift of our freedom is not given so we can do whatever we want to do but rather what we ought to do!

Because of the power of words, John’s Gospel gives the Son of God the title: “THE WORD.” John is clear—the eternal Son of God is not just any word, but THE WORD. THE WORD is God, and through God’s Son, life comes to be.

God the Father creates everything in the universe through HIS WORD, with His Son. Not just life on this round blue sphere circling round the sun, but everything in the cosmos.

John’s Gospel is the last of the 4 gospels to be composed. Unlike Mark’s Gospel, which is the first written and focuses more on the humanity of Jesus, John’s gospel focuses more on Jesus’ divinity. Unlike Matthew and Luke, who begin their story on earth with the birth of the babe Jesus, John begins in heaven, before time begins. John wants to emphasize the seriousness of the Incarnation, to move our focus beyond just a baby in a manger to the eternal desire of God to become one with God’s creation.

John’s Gospel may seem less than warm and fuzzy but that’s because this evangelist does not want us to limit Christmas to simply the celebration of Jesus’ birth. When Christians only celebrate the birth of this child, nothing changes in our world. It’s easy to do this for one day and then get on with the rest of our lives.

John, whose words take us on the wings of an eagle to soar above the earth, gives us a different perspective on Christmas. The gospel of John proclaimed today reveals why the Church celebrates this feast for more than one day but every day for eight days as if each of the eight days were Christmas Day.

John’s majestic words which open his gospel remind us that this babe in a manger is the Eternal Son of God, THE WORD OF GOD spoken to all humanity. Through Him all life came to be and in him all life is sustained in being.

That’s why when John says, “THE WORD BECAME FLESH” it’s like an earthquake, an earth-shattering, history-changing event. The eternal Word of God, through whom every-thing has been created, humbles himself to become part of His Creation. The one who is limitless now forever limits Himself to a human body and the frailty of the human condition.

When human beings turned their back on God, God could have simply snapped God’s almighty fingers and said “Saved” and been done with that. But God did not desire to save wayward men and women from afar, but wanted to have a human finger to reach out and wipe away the tears of those who weep.

The Son of God, the eternal word of love spoken by the Father, takes our flesh in order to come as close as possible to us, to save us from inside the human experience of joy and sorrow, suffering and delight.

Yes, God could have said the word, “Saved” and saved us from sin and everlasting death, but instead the Word of God became flesh in order to be our SAVIOR.

To taste the salt in our tears and have his heart broken like ours. To be tempted as we are tempted and still remain faithful to His Father. To suffer and to plunge into the abyss of death.

To experience every-thing human in order to redeem humanity.

The Son of God, the eternal Word of God, becomes flesh in order to speak these words to us: I LOVE YOU! This is not love in a general sense, as in “God loves the world” but in a very specific sense: God loves you, irrepeatable, one in a hundred million billion YOU!

This is not the sentimental, syrupy, sappy love of some Christmas songs or movies but the strong, relentless, stubborn love of the divine Son of God for you.

God loves you and burns with an infinite desire to be with you in everything you do and everywhere you go.

For the Son of God became human so that we could become one with God.