Every Christmas morning, when this middle-aged woman’s kids were little, she would read them the nativity story out of the big family bible. When her son was old enough to talk, he asked her what a stable was. She thought for a moment how to explain it to him in terms he could understand, then she told him, “It’s something like your sister’s room, but without a stereo.”
How do we explain God become a human being? And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. In other words, God became a human being and moved in among us.
Notice that the readings for Christmas Day do not speak of the cute baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. The readings do not speak of Mary and Joseph or the Three Kings. Those readings belong to the earlier masses of Christmas and later Epiphany. This morning St. John presents us with a deeper meaning of the person of God.
It is an ancient venture this search for God. The scriptures tell us that our Jewish brothers and sisters yearned to encounter the person of God. But the Spirit of God is not to be found just on mountaintops or just in tabernacles. According to the prophets, God is found in people of peace. God is uncovered in people with good news. God is discovered in people who comfort and redeem other people- the sick/the hurting/the elderly/the poor/an enemy/and especially the neighbor.
And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. In other words, God becomes a human being, moves in among us and it startles us.
For example, the Swiss advocate group, Pro Infirmis, startles the world. To prepare for International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, artists and directors of the organization invited people in wheelchairs and crutches, people without arms and legs, people with twisted bodies to model for them. They were going to form them into mannequins. In the words of the artist: “Behind you is [a] mannequin. When all of the mannequins were finished, each of the persons who modeled is seen touching, hugging and embracing their mannequin forms that end up in store windows on expensive shopping streets. What unites them as human beings is that they all smile at their own statues knowing like every other human being that they have a right to be seen and encountered. The You Tube video ends with the line: “And who is perfect?” (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8umFV69fNg)
And the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us. In other words, God becomes a human being, moves in among us, and is closer to us than we think.
Gifts are wonderful at Christmastime. The sights and the sounds and the beauty of this sacred day fill our senses. We have lots of memories of Christmas from our childhood. But we also possess lots of bad memories of how things have gone wrongly, of how things have not worked well. We tend to remember more of the negative than the positive. So what if this Christmas Day we were to act differently? People expect us to be negative. People want us to be our old selves. People do not want us to change- they will not know what to do when we act divinely. God becomes a human being and moves in next to us so that we would know what it is like to be divine. This Christmas Day surprise your family members and your friends and do deeds of divinity! May we be like Mr. and Mrs. Smith, two Christians who lived very healthy lives. They died the same and went to heaven. As they are walking along the gold boulevards of the heavenly kingdom they marveled at the paradise around them. Without blinking, Mrs. Smith turns to her husband and says “Wow. I never knew heaven was going to be as good as this!” “Yeah”, says Mr. Smith. “And just think, if you hadn’t fed me that oat bran we could have gotten here ten years sooner.”
Here at this Eucharist we learn how to be divine. Here God imprints us as He imprinted his Son two thousand years ago in an unknown town of Bethlehem in very humbling surroundings. If the world is waiting to see God, then you and I are those artists who must draw deeds of divinity not tomorrow and not next year, but today- Christmas Day!
Merry, Merry Christmas!
Christmas Day, 2014
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.