Christmas - Homily 2

Homily 2 - 2010

It’s good to tell the stories to the children. Gather them around the crib – at home or in the Church. Let it be hands-on. Help them to say a prayer to Jesus, or Mary or Joseph. Children need to know the stories of the tribe. It helps them know who they are.

But they grow up – and so have you.   Then it’s time to take them more deeply into the Gospel – to cut loose from the way the story is constructed – and to encourage them to question: What was Luke hoping to tell us by the way he shaped his story – so different from Matthew? I’ll share a few things that get me thinking. 

The story started by saying that the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, took a census. The point of his census was to assess the capacity of the district to pay taxes. Caesar Augustus prided himself on the peace that he had brought to the Empire. So the context is power, wealth and peace - for some.

The story ended with another scenario – an angelic chorus promising peace to all who enjoy God’s favour.

So, there’s power – and power; and there’s peace; and they could hardly be more different. 

It seems to me that Luke constructed his story to redefine power, and to redefine peace, to say nothing of real wealth. In the process, he set about redefining God.

A lot of our prayers at Mass address God as Almighty God, All-powerful God. I think it is an unfortunate address, even though, from a certain point of view, it is true.

Caesar’s power was controlling power, that did not pull back from violence. God’s power is more the empowering energy of love – which is power, but doesn’t control. Even in the created world, I am not so sure that God pokes his nose into things to pull one string here, another string there. There is mystery in how God’s providence works.

And then there’s peace. Rome’s peace was enforced by the power of the sword. And God’s peace?

I was disappointed recently with Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize – as though to secure peace you have to go to war. That’s true only because people are not prepared to accept the powerlessness, the inconvenient price of love.

Jesus lived a life that deliberately tried to show that peace can only be secured by peaceful means. Remember his saying: I am the way, the truth and the life. The goal of fullness of life cannot be separated from the way to it. The way of Jesus secures the goal of peace – even if at a price.

Look at the crib – utter powerlessness, releasing the incredibly powerful energy of love – certainly at a price. Mary and Joseph pushed around, excluded; a totally dependent baby – and with God not pulling a string.

And, if we steal a glance at the last chapter of the Gospel, we see a Jesus brutalised, dehumanised and murdered because of his challenging life and message.

But, that’s not quite the last page.

Do we let Christmas redefine our ideas about God? It could be the way to a truly Happy Christmas – which keeps on going!