Theme: GLORY TO GOD WHO HAS FAVORED MEN WITH HIS PEACE
- Luke 2: l -14
- Hebrews l:l-6
- John 111-18
A Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas to all of you! Before we look at the gospel reading of today from St. John, let us ﬁrst look again at the gospel reading from St. Luke, i.e. the gospel reading for last night’s midnight mass. The two gospels are very different and they complement one another!
To look at the gospel of St. Luke from last night’s midnight mass, we have to look at the Christmas crib! The Christmas crib tells us that Jesus was born in a stable in a cave in Bethlehem. This was because Bethlehem was David’s town and Jesus was a descendent of David, but more than that, it was also because of the census of Caesar Augustus.
In this short gospel, St. Luke has a lot of good news to tell us! St. Luke wants to tell us that Caesar Augustus is not the God, Savior, and Bringer of peace, but Jesus Christ is the God, Savior, and Bringer of peace! Caesar Augustus was a very powerful Roman emperor who ruled from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. He brought about peace — in the sense of no war — during his reign, because he was powerful politically and militarily, and rich and wealthy, and famous.
But peace is not just the absence of war! The word peace comes from the Hebrew word
“Shalom” which means completeness, perfection, and wholeness! In the O.T. it means security, well-being, prosperity and righteousness, and more importantly, it is from God!
In the N.T. it means reconciliation, harmony, salvation, communion, love, joy, and again, more importantly, it is from God!
St. Luke has something very important to tell us today, and that is, peace cannot be achieved by political power, economic wealth, and military might. Peace does not come from man. Peace comes from God. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God is the Bringer of peace!
St. Luke also tells us in last night’s gospel that when Joseph and Mary registered themselves at Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to give birth and Mary gave birth to a son whom she wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, because there was no room in the inn!
In these three details ~ swaddling clothes, manger, and no room in the inn — St. Luke tells us that God has become man (swaddling clothes) and more than that, he has become food for man (manger) and he is here to stay (no room in the inn). He is not a traveller who stays in a traveller’s lodge or inn (John F. Craghan, Herman Hendrix) for a few days only, nor is he a tourist who stays in the hotel (inn) for a few days only, but he is here to stay for good and forever! That is why instead of staying in the inn, he is laid in a manger — feeding place for the ox and ass! He becomes food for us so that he stays in us, within us, with us and among us forever, and so that he becomes us and we become him!
And more than that, St. Luke tells us that he becomes food not for the priests and kings, but for the shepherds and sinners. The shepherds were mangy, bathless, and stinking. They were poor and destitute and they steal. They were classiﬁed with the tax collectors and prostitutes as a despised trade.
The gospel of Luke tells us that the angel of the Lord appeared t0 the shepherds and the glory of God shone upon them and they were terriﬁed, but the angel said t0 them, ‘Do not be afraid, I have news of great joy for the whole people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign. You will ﬁnd an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger!
And suddenly with the angel there was a throng of heavenly host singing and praising God: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who are favoured by Him’! In other words, we must give glory to God and not to ourselves. We must not steal the glory from God because it is all God’s work and grace! It is not our work! God has graced and favored men with his peace, his reconciliation, his forgiveness, his harmony, his salvation, his love, and his joy!
A Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas to all of you! Amen!
Theme: GOD REVEALED HIMSELF IN CREATION, IN HUMAN BEINGS, IN OTHER RELIGIONS, AND IN JESUS CHRIST
If we only read the gospel of St. Luke on the birth of Jesus Christ, we may get the impression that God ﬁrst revealed himself in Jesus Christ! But today’s gospel reading from St. John and today’s second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, for today, Christmas day, tell us that God did not ﬁrst reveal himself in Jesus Christ, but on the contrary, God last revealed himself in Jesus Christ in all his perfection, fullness, and completeness!
Today’s gospel reading from St. John and today’s second reading from Hebrews tell us that God ﬁrst revealed himself partially in creation, then he revealed himself partially in human beings, then he revealed himself partially in the other religions, and ﬁnally in the fullness of time he revealed himself perfectly, fully and completely in Jesus Christ!
The gospel of John tells us that, ‘In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God. Everything was created through him; nothing was created without him. Everything that came to be had life in him.
Then the gospel continues, ‘he was the light of men. He came into the world which has its being through him, but the world did not recognize him’.
Again, the gospel continues, He came into his own domain (Jewish religion), but his own people received him not’.
Again, the gospel continues, ‘but to those who received him, he made them children of God the Father. The Word was made ﬂesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory. lt was the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth. Grace and truth here means love and faithfulness, faithful love (NJB), enduring love. lt means mercy and loving-kindness (NJBC). In other words, even when we are not faithful to God, he is faithful to us and even when we do not love him, he still loves us!
Finally the gospel ends by saying, ‘Indeed, from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. Though the law was given through Moses, grace and truth was given through him. No one has ever seen God. It is the only Son who is nearest to the Father’s heart who has revealed him to us!
If God reveals himself in creation then we have to respect creation. We have to love and care for the environment. More than that, Pope John Paul II in his message for the world day of tourism on “Eco-tourism” this year tells us that we have to contemplate creation because creation reveals the Creator God to us!
If God reveals himself in human beings then we have to respect and love each and every human being. We have to respect and love every human being of every race, every culture and every nationality. And in times of need, we have to offer humanitarian aid to every human being of every race, religion, culture and nationality.
If God reveals himself in other religions then we have to respect other religions. We have to understand other religions. We have to dialogue with other religions. And we have to work together with other religions for the good of humanity and for the good of the world! We have to work together with other religions for peace among men and for harmony between men and the environment!
If Jesus Christ is the fullness of God’s revelation then we have to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world! Notice when I said that God reveals himself in other religions, I did not say as some people say that all religions are the same. On the contrary I emphasized that God reveals himself partially in other religions, but he reveals himself fully in Jesus Christ. Again, I did not say that God reveals himself fully in the Christian or in Christianity, but in Jesus Christ! This is because Christians and Christianity are not always like Jesus Christ! In short we have to proclaim Jesus Christ to the whole world! We have to proclaim the love, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to the whole world! We have to proclaim the good news of Christmas to the whole world!
This is our Christmas present to the whole world!
Again, a very Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas to all of you! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.