Christmas Homily 2011

Christmas is probably most widely known in our culture as a time for giving and receiving gifts. The stores and the media have placed the importance of Christmas shopping before our eyes non-stop since before Thanksgiving. Christmas advertising seems to begin earlier and earlier. It is important for us to remember the reason that we give gifts to one another on Christmas: as Christians we must keep our eyes fixed on the reason for the gift giving.

Why do we give gifts to each other on Christmas? Part of the reason we give gifts is to let other people know how much we care about them. That is the reason we give a gift to a person on their birthday, for example. We give gifts to our family members and loved ones on the day that they were born in order to show our love and affection for them, to show them that we are glad that they are a part of our lives and we are a part of theirs. Why do we give gifts to each other on the day when we celebrate the Nativity of Jesus Christ? On Christmas, we celebrate the Birth of Our Lord and Savior in time: we celebrate the fact that God became man. Why do we exchange gifts when we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ? We give gifts to one another on this day in order to imitate the generosity of Almighty God, Who on this day over two-thousand years ago, gave the world the greatest gift ever given: the gift of His Only Begotten Son. It is said of the gift that God gave in giving us His Son that “Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give.”

To help us appreciate the greatness of the gift that God has given to us, let us reflect on this gift from two different aspects: first we will consider it from what God has given to us; second, we will consider it from the point of view of our need. God gave us the greatest gift because He gave to us what He most loves: His own most-beloved Son. From all eternity, the Eternal Son of God existed with the Father in Glory. The Father and the Son live in perfect union and in perfect love together with the Holy Spirit. From all eternity God has existed as a community of divine Persons. Within God there is perfect joy, perfect happiness, and perfect glory. When God gave to us the gift of His Son, He gave that which He loves most and He gave Him freely to us as a gift. When the Eternal Son of God became a man, He came to earth freely in order to reveal God to us and to give Himself completely to us in Holy Communion. God sent His Son, freely; Christ became one of us, freely; and this gift that is freely given to us shows us how much God loves us. In Christ the fullness of divinity is made manifest: God became a man, like us in all things except for sin, so that we could know God and have access to Him. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and He has been sent, He has willingly come to earth so that we might have life and have it in abundance: and the kind of life that He came to bring is not merely the earthly life that we have now but will one day lose; He came to bring abundant life to our souls: to give us a share in His divine life, and that kind of life is life that will never end.

That is the gift from the point of view of what God has given to us; now let us look at the gift from the perspective of our need. As members of the human race, we stand in absolute need of a Savior. That is the reality of our condition: we are fallen; we possess a corrupted human nature. We need a Savior and we cannot save ourselves. Our current state is not the way that God created us. We were created by God to know Him and love Him and to be united with Him: that is the purpose of our existence. Our first parents disobeyed God and thereby lost God’s friendship for the entire human race. Because of sin, suffering and death are a part of our lot in this world: no one can escape suffering and no one can escape death, they are part and parcel of our lives as human beings. Because of original sin, human beings are, by nature, estranged from God. Had God Himself not become one of us to save us from sin and eternal death, we would be forever lost; had Christ not been born for us, we would never have been freed from our sins; we would not have the access to God that we have as Christians, had Christ not been born, suffered, died and rose again from the dead for us. Had God not assumed our fallen human nature in order to redeem it, we would have no hope of ever seeing the joy of Heaven. Jesus, Himself, said that no one comes to the Father except through Him; through Jesus Christ, and through Him alone, we have access to God, through Him and through Him alone we have hope of attaining the union with God in Heaven for which we were created. If God had not become one of us in order to redeem us, the purpose of our very existence would be forever frustrated. That is the reason that God so willingly sent His Son; that is the reason that Christ so willingly shed His Precious Blood: so that we would not be lost in sin, and despair and death, but through Him we might have hope and through Him we have access to divine life.

Jesus Christ is the greatest gift ever given to the world because He is Himself God and nothing greater than God can ever be given as a gift because nothing is greater than God. We should appreciate the gift all the more because apart from Him we would be lost; without His coming among us we would have no hope of attaining the eternal union with God in Heaven that we were created for. Let us be truly grateful for this gift that God has given to the world this day: the gift of His Only Son. “Although He is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give.” May our hearts be filled with gratitude and awe that such a wondrous gift has been given to us!

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