Friday, January 7, 2011

Let the world despair; you, fly to Bethlehem! Sermon for Epiphany

Epiphany of the Lord
January 2, 2011
Matthew 2:1-12

They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage.

Some modern atheistic scientists will tell you that the universe is entirely self-contained and closed off to any outside involvement. They will claim that there is nothing beyond the created world, no Creator who could possibly have any real effect in the world. Moreover, their reasoning leads to a radical form of determinism – for these materialist scientists will tell you that all reality is determined by the interaction of matter. They say that human freedom is just an illusion, what is real is simple cause and effect.
In this way, such scientists are not too different from the astrologers of old. For it was believed, in ancient pagan cultures, that a man’s life was determined by the stars – if he was born under good stars he would have a good life, but if under bad stars he would have a hard life.

And against all of this, we have the mystery of the Epiphany. Today the star goes before the Magi and leads them to the Christ Child. We see that the material world does not determine freedom, and it does not determine God. For it is not that the star blesses the Child, as the astrologers thought, but the Child blesses the star. It is not that the star determines the Child, rather the Child determines the star.

Today, God shows us that he is present in the world, he proves that he is always among us. By making his presence known, my manifesting his love for us in Christ, the Lord teaches us that he is always active in our world.
God’s love for us, his love for you and for me, is made manifest in the Christ Child – God has so loved the world that he sent his Son to become a little baby, to die for us, that we might live. God became a baby, what a wonder!

How great is the love of God! Man fell, so God descended. Man fell miserably, so God descended mercifully. Man fell through pride, but God descended through humility and grace.
This is the mystery of Christmas. But perhaps we are wondering – is Christmas over? The children are returning to school, businesses are returning to their normal hours, Christmas decorations are coming down – even the presents and we have received are starting to seem a bit “old”. And so, perhaps we ask ourselves – is that it? Is that all there is to Christmas?
No, I tell you! Let your Christmas not end in such a way! Indeed, it is true that the “Holiday Season” has passed; but what matter is this to us? For the “Holiday Season” is the secular distraction – it is good that it is finally over, that it has passed. Now that the secular distractions are over, turn to the true meaning of Christmas.

Let the world go back to its dull, dreary, despair – You, fly to Bethlehem. Fly to Bethlehem and rest a while there, together with Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar (the three Wise Men). Sit in the stable or the cave; speak with the Magi, with Joseph, with Mary. Look upon the Holy Child – adore the Lord present before you. Take a moment to contemplate the true meaning of Christmas.
Today the Magi find, crying in a manger, he who is true God. Today the Magi see clearly, in swaddling clothes, the Lord for whom they have longed. Today the Magi gaze in deep wonder at what they see: heaven on earth and earth in heaven, man in God and God in man, he whom the whole universe cannot contain is contained in the tiny body of an infant. As they look, they believe and do not doubt, as their gifts bear witness: gold for him who is King, frankincense for the true God, and myrrh for the one who would die to take away our sins.