THE BEST RESPONSE TO CHRISTMAS ( Jn 1:1-16)
During the Christmas Season we look at the various responses to Christmas–Anger of Herod; Worship of the Shepherds and Magi; Giving of Gifts of the Wise Men and the Angels
This morning, let us focus on the most appropriate response to Christmas–that of Faith.
In our Gospel Text this morning we see that there are two contrasting responses listed . . . those that received Him and those that received Him not. These two possibilities raise two questions:
- WHY WOULD SOME NOT RECEIVE HIM? Why is it that some do not respond to Christ? Why would anyone not receive the one who came to deliver them from sin? I suggest three reasons:
- a) Indifference . . . .preoccupation
There are some people who do not receive Christ simply because they do not notice Him. Even at this time of Christmas it is possible to be so preoccupied that you miss the one who is supposed to be the focus of the celebration.
Lots of attention is paid to Santa Claus. Many pictures and figures of Santa are seen on housetops, doors, lawns, sweatshirts, cards and etc. It makes me wonder who they really love. There is the big emphasis on PRESENTS! Not the “PRESENCE” OF JESUS, but presents for family and friends. Some people spend more just for Christmas than they give to God all year. Many “celebrate” CHRISTMAS without even a mention of CHRIST. Many people bow their heads, but not worship, give but not love; pray but not believe; relax in their homes, but not rest in God’s hands; gather around their live trees, but never gather around the tree of life.
However, it is a good sign that you are here in worship today but even your attendance here may be more from tradition than out of a desire for worship. This Holy Mass may just “be a part of your celebration”. I invite you to look beyond the tradition and see Jesus.
Mary is said to have pondered the events of the season and treasured these things in her heart. That would be a good practice for us.
- b) Cynicism . . . . no one would love like that without a catch
Many are too sceptical to receive Christ. They figure anything that sounds this good can’t be true. It is hard to believe that God would care that much. We know if we were God we wouldn’t go to such extremes to save us. So, we look for the hidden charge, the “secret agenda”. The offer of God’s grace must have a catch, we think. Can Anything Separate Us From The Love Christ Has For Us? “We are Something Special to God.
- c) Outright Rejection . . . . I don’t want to depend on anyone but me
These people understand the message perfectly . . . and that is why they reject it. The idea of a judge who would dare label some behaviour “SIN” is unacceptable to them. How dare God presume to make such rules? They will not admit they are sinful. They like the idea of a God who “LOVES EVERYONE”. They find the idea of needing a Saviour repulsive. These people are self-reliant, not dependent. They do not need a Saviour . . . they don’t need anyone! The desire for freedom is so great that we end up rejecting the only one who can make us truly free.
The Sad Truth is that each of these scenarios . . . .if continued throughout life leads to eternal separation from God. (John 3:18)
- WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RECEIVE HIM?
- a) First, it means to acknowledge personal sin. Some “receive” Jesus because they think HE IS COOL. Some “receive Him” because they want TO BE ON A WINNING TEAM. People “receive” Christ so THEY CAN BELONG TO THE CHURCH. But any reason for “receiving” Christ apart from a desire to be cleansed from sin is to not receive Him at all. True faith starts with a realization of personal need
- b) Second, it means to believe who He is. He is the one from God. He is not JUST a good man with a good idea . . . He is God in human form seeking to communicate with His creation. It means believing that He is the only Saviour from Sin. It means acknowledging that we cannot do anything to save ourselves.
There are some people today who say that if Catholics really want to enter into genuine dialogue with Non-Christian believers, we should give up our belief that Jesus is truly God. We could simply acknowledge Jesus as a Prophet sent by God, as a great Teacher, an outstanding Rabbi, but only a great Rabbi, alongside other great historical religious leaders like Buddah, Mohammed, and Confucius. We should admit, they say, that Jesus is only a man, and not God. Such an admission by Catholics, it is said, would make it easier for us Catholics to be accepted as equal partners in dialogue by the adherents of Non-Christian Religions. It would put us all on an equal footing, on the same level. Even some Christians, like the Protestant theologian, Reinhold Bernhardt, would like to accept this kind of reasoning.
We cannot design for ourselves the kind of Christ we would like to believe in, the Christ who fits into our concept of dialogue. We must allow Jesus to be who he understood himself to be. We cannot impose another identity on him other than the identity which he himself manifests to us, his self-understanding. We must allow Jesus to be the one whom his followers thought him to be. “But who do you say that I am? … You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.
JESUS IS UNIQUE! He is not just a Prophet among others; a Rabbi or Teacher among others; a Religious Founder among others. Jesus tells his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Mt 28:19-20). The whole of the New Testament testifies to the fact that Jesus is God. It was because he proclaimed his identity as God that he was crucified. It was because his disciples affirmed their belief in his divinity that they suffered martyrdom.
At Christmas, we proclaim our faith in the Child of Bethlehem AS TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN. His name is Emmanuel, GOD-WITH-US.
- c) Third, receiving Christ at Christmas means to entrust oneself to Him. I like to say, receiving Christ means being willing to bet your life on Christ. It means to put all your hope and confidence in Him.
Here’s a favourite Christmas story about a little boy called Wallace Perling: Wallace Perling was a little boy who had been given a role to play in a Christmas drama. His job, as the innkeeper was to answer the knock at his door, listen to the plea of Joseph and say, “No! Begone!” Wallace had practiced hard and was ready. Finally, Mary and Joseph worked their way to his door. His heart was pounding. When Wallace opened the door, there stood Mary and Joseph. They looked so tired. Joseph told how Mary was expecting a child and they were so weary. But Wallace looked straight ahead and said, “No! Begone!” This is where the story gets interesting. You see, Wallace didn’t shut the door, as programmed. Instead he watched the couple walk dejectedly away. Finally, Wallace said, “Wait, You can have my room!” Some people in the audience think Wallace spoiled the show. But in reality, he carried the day.
This is what it means to receive Christ. It means to invite Jesus to live in your life. It means opening the door and inviting Him in.
Take a careful look at the Gospel reading: “For Those Who respond, they will be called Sons of God. They are made a part of God’s family. They are forgiven. They are given eternal life. They are given the promise that He will never leave or forsake. They are promised that everything that happens is part of His plan for us.”
How will you respond this Christmas to the Christ-child? Are you just going through the motions of Church-going and fanfare? Are you giving more attention to the gifts under the tree than to the GREATEST GIFT? Will you resist God’s invitation forever? Would you be willing to make that commitment today . . . right now? Would you be willing to truly celebrate CHRIST-mas in a devout manner? Will you invite Jesus to take “your room”, like Wallace did? Will you give Him what you have in exchange for what He will make of you?
Merry Christmas to you all!