“EVE OF THE NATIVITY OF OUR LORD”
Saint Luke 2. 1-20
Eve of The Nativity: 24 December Anno Domini 2013
Fr. Jay Watson SSP
In The + Name of Jesus
Everyone who is a sinner absolutely loves and resonates with warm feelings over a gauzy, sentimental and family Christmas Eve with attendant fuzzy homily—providing said sermon is also standard two-part Law/Gospel that contains the necessary Lutheran “buzz-words:” grace, faith, scripture, alone, and amen after 12 minutes.
But grimy, aggravating, and boringly normal circumstances always intrude. Life happens (and I’m thinking of a more earthy word than “life”) and it happens 365. Deliciously ironic in our own current age of confiscatory taxes, governmental intrusions, and authoritarian busy-bodies, that an empire-wide census and an additional head tax would be what the Lord permitted to bring His pregnant Mother to the House of Bread.
Faithful Saint Joseph, Guardian of Our Lord, and our Blessed Mother, both faithful Jews (i.e. believers in the Lord’s promise to Eve of the coming Messiah) were Galileans…living amongst many Gentiles in a land cursed by the darkness predicted by Saint Jacob almost 1,900 years earlier. Zebulun and Naphtali (Nazareth, Nain, Cana, Capernaum, etc.) were lands of the people living in a great darkness. But praise be to God a teen-aged Virgin mother would carry in her womb the Light of the World to a place where Mother Saint Rachel had died in childbirth during the nativity of Benjamin. So as Rachel, who had been barren, and Jacob, renamed Israel, had once traveled south from Bethel (House of God) only to have Rachel die giving birth in Ephrathta, i.e. Bethlehem, so too centuries later a man and His wife, Virgin not barren, would make Ephrathta and its manger the true House of God the tabernacle for the True Israel. Every place where the Bread of God is becomes Bethel as well as Bethlehem.
In that stable the large bellied Theotokos (God-bearer) delivered her Baby. God’s Son, the 2nd Person of the Holy Trinity, the Angel of The Lord, Who had appeared to Saint Moses from the Burning Bush that was not burned, was delivered from Mary, out of Mary, and was her Son in every way a son is a son to its mother.
“And she brought forth her first born Son” writes Saint Luke. The Symbols say (by way of Luther’s Smalcald Articles—Henry Jacob’s English translation): “That the Son became man thus; that He was conceived, without the co-operation of man, by the Holy Ghost, and was born of the pure, holy and always Virgin Mary.” [Jacobs p. 311]
We whine and complain if our central air and heat don’t keep us at the proper year round temperature of comfort while we text, surf, view, listen to the entire world (the Kingdom of the prince of the air—who is a snake) while Gottesmutter, God’s Mother, is on straw and hay surrounded by oxen and mules in a stable giving birth by oil-light. Be like Paul. Stop complaining about every little thing, and criticizing everyone for not meeting your expectations, and being so self-willed all the time…maybe even now during this evening’s festival and tomorrow’s Feast, and rather boast in the Lord…glory in the Gloria in Excelsis as we join the angels again at tomorrow’s Mass in praising Jesus: Glory be to God on high. Glory be to Him Who deigns to stoop down to earth, to a Virgin’s womb, to a manger, to water, bread, and wine, to a tiny house in Shawnee with not many more than were in the stable when the Shepherds arrived.
As The Lord wraps Himself in flesh and blood—real cellular and DNA—official flesh and blood—His Mother wraps Him tightly in swaddling clothes. Such a wrapping, which did serve an important health and developmental purpose, was a “type,” a harbinger for when a different Joseph assisted by Nicodemus would wrap the Christ in a different set of clothes.
Oh Mystery of mysteries, oh Sacrament of sacraments…that God and man are one in this Holy Babe. What allows us to sing truthfully TLH hymn # 104 s. 5: “Upon a manger filled with hay in poverty content He lay; with milk was fed the Lord of all Who feeds the ravens when they call?” Again the Symbols say it so well (this time by way of Jacob Andreae and Martin Chemnitz) in the Formula of Concord: “On account of this personal union and communion of the natures, Mary, the Blessed Virgin, bore not a mere man, but such a man as is truly the Son of the Most High God, as the angel Gabriel testifies; Who showed His divine majesty even in His mother’s womb, that He was born of a virgin, with her virginity uninjured. Therefore she is truly the mother of God, and nevertheless remained a virgin.” [Jacobs p. 628).
With God all things are possible. The Lord Who can make Mary his true mother is the one Who makes you His true brothers and sisters. While you do not become God or have His Divine Nature (nor did the Virgin become Divine) you are not just his adopted sibling but you do actually share in His Nature by way of the Holy Communion of His Sacramental Body and Blood. The Facebook meme though a bit “tired” now and an example of “preaching to the choir” is nonetheless true: “It’s not about keeping Christ in Christmas, but rather keeping The MASS in the Christ-Mass!”
Mary laid Jesus in the feeding trough for it mysteriously pointed to His being laid tomorrow morning in the Ciborium or on the Paten in the Sacrament of the Altar, to be laid upon your tongues and into your souls! God became man in order for man to be in communion with God once again. Bethlehem began the process of re-establishing Eden now in the Church Militant; soon in the Church Triumphant.
God incarnate to never be un-incarnate again; to never be anything but our Flesh and Blood Lord and Brother. He was born in a cave so that He could be laid dead in another hillside cave, forever burying your sins. He was laid in a wooden manger so that He could later be laid out on a wooden Crucifix to atone for your falleness. He was lulled to sleep by doves and snuffling donkeys so that during Palmarum He could be carried into Jerusalem on a donkeys back, to be not just the redemptive price of two-turtledoves (the God/Man) but the very Paschal Lamb Itself—the Propitiation for the world!
The Christmas star shines bright this evening as it is Christ Himself in His Word lighting your way to His pulpit, font and altar. Shepherds, Guardians, Saints, and Angels sing with you this eve as you too will soon find the Babe, the Son, lying in a manger for you. Fear not. I bring you good tidings of great joy. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, on this altar, PEACE, God’s will and food for men!
In The Name of The Father and of The + Son and of The Holy Ghost