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Homily for Christmas 2010

posted Jan 4, 2011, 6:08 AM by fathermark@stmaryshuntingburg.org

Christmas 2010

St. Mary's, Huntingburg


                It makes for a perfect Christmas card scene ...

A "Hallmark moment" ...

Out ... on a silent, holy night ... out in the fields ... under a starry sky ... shepherds quietly keeping watch over their flocks...

And suddenly, a great light appears  .... the "glory of the Lord" shines around them ... and an angel from heaven declares:  "I proclaim to you good news of great joy ... today a savior has been born to you ... the savior of the world has come!"

"Your savior ... and the savior of all the world ... has been born ..."


                It makes for a perfect Christmas card scene ... a "Hallmark moment"...

... but that's not exactly as it would have seemed  to the original readers of the Gospel ...

Some of the details might have struck them as a little odd ... a little hard to take ... like the part about those shepherds ...

Because ... shepherds in the ancient world were sometimes looked on as shady characters ... barely making a living ... working with smelly sheep ... out alone in the fields ... away from "civilization" ... maybe a little wild ... maybe a little suspect ...

Why, in heaven's name, would an angel of the Lord appear to shepherds (of all people!) to announce the birth of the Savior of the world?

Why not to the Roman emperor ... or to the Jewish King ... or to the High Priests in the Temple ...  or to the learned doctors of the Law of God?

But to shepherds?!?


                Why the shepherds, then?


Why did the message come to  the shepherds out in the field?

Why not the Roman emperor or the Jewish king or the priests or the doctors of the law?


                Maybe the message came to the shepherds precisely because they were out in the fields.

They weren't surrounded by the noise.

They weren't distracted by the glitz.

They weren't like the innkeepers who were too busy making a living to welcome a poor couple looking for a place to lay their heads.

Out there ... in the fields ... under a starry sky  ... the shepherds were more ready to welcome angels ... more open to hear message ... more prepared to see the truth.


                OR ... maybe the message came to the shepherds because they were people who knew that they needed a savior.

They didn't have the money or the power or the prestige to fool themselves into thinking that they could do without a savior.

They didn't have the "safety net"  or the property to sell or a comfortable family to see them through  if things got tough.

Maybe the shepherds were poor enough to know that they needed help.

OR maybe they were just shady enough to know that they needed a savior ... they needed someone to save them from their sin.


                Today, we celebrate Christmas.

And we all know what that means: the Son of God was born in human flesh like ours.

The Savior of the World has come.

Jesus Christ was born in a manger.

In fact, we know the whole story ... the census ... no room in the inn ... the stable ... the manger ... the birth ... the shepherds ... the angels.

But do we get the message?

Do we know what it means?

Do we really know what Christmas means?


                Well, maybe we'd understand it better if, like those shepherds, we took our  attention away from the glitz ... the glitz of our secular Christmas ... and pondered the deeper meaning of Christmas ...

Sometimes Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman and the reindeer ... the shopping ... the lights ... as cute as they are ... they just get in the way.

Maybe, more generally, in our daily lives, you and I are ultimately too much like the people in Jerusalem at the time of the birth of Jesus ... too busy to notice ... too occupied with our lives ... no room in the inn for the Savior of the world.

Maybe angels would appear to us ... but, like all of those important people at the time of Jesus ... we're just too busy.

Maybe the great light is shining on us at this moment ... like it shone on those shepherds ... but we're just too preoccupied to notice.


                Maybe we'd better understand what Christmas means, if, like the shepherds, we realized how much we need a savior.

The story of Jesus born in that manger only makes sense to people who know that they need to be saved.

If we look into our hearts and can see there deep roots of pettiness and selfishness and lack of generosity ... why, then, we'd know we need a savior.

OR ... if we have ever hurt others, betrayed others, disrespected others ... and then discovered that we are powerless to make it right ... to heal ... to reconcile ... then we know that we need a savior.

If we have ever been hurt by others, betrayed by others, disrespected by others ... and found ourselves unable to forgive, or heal ourselves, or move on, once and for all. ... then, we know we need a savior.

If we have ever gotten exactly what we want ... only to discover that it wasn't enough, that it wasn't worth the price, that there must be something more ... then, we know we need savior.

If we have faced the reality of suffering, the bitterness of defeat, the inevitability of death ... then we know, in our innermost heart that we need a savior.


                And if we know that we need a savior, then the light of this Christmas can truly shine our hearts.

We can truly hear the "good news of great joy" ... the good news that our savior has come!

The Savior has been born!

We can look on that little infant wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in the manger ... and we can proclaim with those angels:

"Glory! ... Glory to God in the highest!"