Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
“…BUT THE WORLD DID NOT KNOW HIM”
“He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:10-11). This morning, let us focus on the most appropriate response to Christmas. In our Gospel text this morning, we see that there are two contrasting responses listed. There are those that received Him and those that received Him not. These two possibilities raise two questions: why should some not receive? Why is it that some do not respond to Christ? Why would anyone not receive the ONE WHO CAME TO DELIVER THEM FROM SIN? Here are some possible reasons:
- SOME ARE TO PREOCCUPIED.
There are some people who do not receive Christ simply because they do not notice Him. They are indifferent. Even at this time of Christmas it is possible to be so preoccupied that we 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”. We fail to take note of the “PRESENCE” OF JESUS. Instead, we focus on the “presents”, (the gifts) for family and friends. During a festive period like Christmas, some people may spend more than they give to God throughout the entire year. Many may “celebrate CHRISTMAS” without even a mention of CHRIST. Many people bow their heads, but they do not worship. They give but they do not love. The pray but they do not believe. People relax in their homes, but they do not have time rest in God’s hands. They gather around their live trees, but never gather around “THE TREE OF LIFE”. That is the paradox of Christmas. “He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:11).
However, it is a good sign that we have gathered here in Church this morning to worship Jesus, born in Bethlehem. But we must what out that our presence here is Church is not more from tradition than out of a desire for worship. This Holy Mass may just “be a part of your celebration”, a part of a routine to that we follow at Christmas! Today, we are invited to look beyond the tradition and SEE JESUS.
In the late part of today’s gospel, St. Luke tell us that “Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in here heart” (Lk 2:19). Indeed, she pondered the events of the season and treasured them in her heart. THAT WOULD BE A GOOD PRACTICE FOR US at this Christmas.
- SOME ARE SIMPLY CYNICAL
Nowadays, many are too sceptical to receive Christ. They imagine that anything that sounds so good like the love of God for mankind, by sending His son into the world, cannot be true. It is hard for some to believe that God would care that much. We know that if we were God, we would not go to such extremes to save people. Therefore, some people look for the hidden charge, the “secret agenda” behind God’s love. They imagine that the offer of God’s grace must have a catch. With such a mentality, people miss out on the true value of Christmas.
But then, we ask “Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for US?” Christmas announces to us that “We are Something Special to God”. That is why “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14).
- SOME OUTRIGHTLY REJECT JESUS
These people understand the message perfectly. that is why they reject it. The idea of a judge who would dare label some behaviour as “SIN” is unacceptable to many people of the era of Post-Modernism. They ask: “How dare God presume to make such rules?” They will not admit that they are sinful. They like the idea of a God who “LOVES EVERYONE”. But they find the idea of needing a Saviour repulsive. These people are self-reliant, not dependent. They seem to say to themselves “I don’t want to depend on anyone but me”. They do not need a Saviour. They do not need anyone! They are rich, self-sufficient, and independent. The desire for freedom is so great that people end up rejecting the only one who can make them TRULY FREE. He is Jesus Christ, “The true light, which gives light to everyone” (Jn 1:9).
The sad truth is that each of these scenarios, make many people today to be eternally separated from. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:18). This is, certainly, not what we want for Christmas!
- 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”. Some people “receive” Christ so that 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 in who Jesus 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 our sins. It means acknowledging that we cannot do anything without him.
- JESUS IS GOD
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. Catholics 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, who has written widely on interreligious dialogue, 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” (Mtt 16:13; Lk 8:27).
JESUS IS UNIQUE!
Jesus 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, therefore, we proclaim our faith in the Child of Bethlehem AS TRUE GOD AND TRUE MAN. His name is the “Emmanuel, GOD-WITH-US”.
Receiving Christ at Christmas means to entrust ourselves to Him. It means being willing to bet our lives on Christ. It means to put all your hope and confidence in Him. This would entail inviting Jesus to live in our lives. It means opening the door and inviting Him in.
A careful look at the Gospel reading reveals that those who believe and accept Jesus in a special way are rewarded with a new life. “But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:12). For those who respond positively, 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 them. They are promised that everything that happens is part of His plan for us.
The question that each and every one of us should ask is: How will I respond this Christmas to the Christ-child? Am I just going through the motions of Church-going and the fanfare? Am I giving more attention to the gifts under the tree than to the GREATEST GIFT? Will I resist God’s invitation forever? Am I willing to truly celebrate CHRIST-mas in a devout manner?
Will you give Him what you HAVE and what you ARE in exchange for what He will make of you?
Merry Christmas to you all!