Christmas - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2007

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favour.

There’s not much peace in Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq, in Jesus’ own Land itself, or in Fiji, West Papua, even Palm Island. What went wrong?

And where is the ordinary person at, not just at the level of life’s general ups and downs but deep down? Are people in our society at peace?

What’s wrong? Perhaps we have trouble with God, or with the way God sees things.

As he tells his story, Luke makes a few significant emphases: Firstly, Jesus is born into poverty, in someone else’s house, his family obviously well down the list on society’s pecking order.

But it was OK with God. It didn’t faze God! It was irrelevant to God! Apparently, upper class/lower class, well off/not well off, don’t figure in God’s repertoire.

Secondly, those privileged to learn the wonder - the mystery - first were shepherds. Mary and Joseph were poor – shepherds were something else! In the mindset of the time, you could hardly get lower – right at the edges, thugs, non-conformists, ritually unclean – no way would they be allowed into the temple to worship. But, they could worship here OK.

It was OK with God. It didn’t faze God that angels let them in on the mystery first. 

I don’t know if Joseph and Mary felt uneasy when they showed up, but they didn’t show them the door.

Thirdly, if we haven’t got Luke’s point by now, he offers another clue. The lone angel gives way to a chorus who sing about peace to men who enjoy God’s favour.

Is that specifying people, narrowing the reach? or describing all people? Is it peace only to those - perhaps few - who are favoured by God? or Is it peace to people, all of whom enjoy God’s favour?

The first is hardly Good News – hardly worth singing about: business as usual – insiders/outsiders, welcome/unwelcome, us/them.

Jesus’ Good News is that God’s love is indiscriminate; God’s heart is big – God can love anyone. No one can do anything that could stop God loving. God’s love is unconditional. In fact, unconditional love is the only love deserving to be called love.

What went wrong? People don’t like things God’s way. People want to be special. People can only cope with insiders/outsiders, welcome/unwelcome, us/them. That’s why we fight – we always fight them, the "not us". We seem to love to categorise and to exclude.

Getting back to the crib... Should we make things at least look better? Should we sterilise the manger? Spray some air freshener? Dress the child in something suitable? Should we take the shepherds out of the crib? and, as for the wise men from the East, at least paint their faces white, straighten their noses, and remove any slant from their eyes.

There is enormous potential in the crib – but only if we can learn to be comfortable with less than perfect, with difference. As we become comfortable with that, as we learn to be comfortable indeed with ourselves, perhaps peace may spread to enwrap our earth.

Let’s take God’s way to heart so that Christmas can be really happy, and that everyone, whom God loves, can enjoy peace. And that’s my Christmas wish for you!