On the Eve of the Nativity of Christ
Sermon Preached by Fr. Antony Hughes on Sunday, December 24, 2006
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ!
St. Gregory of Nyssa writes that “even the pagans and the philosophers heard the thunder from Mt. Sinai.” From that dramatic and earth-shaking theophany came the Law, the Ten Commandments which were meant to curtail the barbarity of the people, to teach them how to take a single step towards paradise. That step was to turn away from idolatry and treat one another with justice. We are still in need of these commandments.
To what great depths the human race had fallen from Eden!
Tonight we are called to listen carefully. This theophany is a quiet one. There is to be no thunder and fire. If we are not still, we will miss it. Instead of thunder and fire God comes in absolute humility. Instead of Ten Commandments, God offers the promise of peace for which there is no law, no reason, no condition – not a peace as the world gives, but a peace that passes understanding.
Tonight we are called to hear the murmur of a new-born child who is at once perfect man and perfect God, who while lying in his cradle holds the universe together by the word of his power, but who had truly become a human being, needing to nurse, needing his diapers to be changed, needing to be protected from the very elements he had created. He bore the weaknesses of humanity and, as St. Leo wrote in his Tome, sparkled at the same time with miracles.
This is the perfect theophany: God as humble, God as vulnerable, God as meek and mild, God as the Great I Am, God as a child who reveals his unlimited power in the perfection of weakness.
This theophany is the beginning of the final message from God. It is the beginning of the revelation that will cause Jesus to proclaim from the Cross “It is complete.”
The Nativity is, in this way, the beginning of his earthly passion and in this tiny baby all that God is and all that God does becomes flesh.
No longer are we limited to seeing God either in creation, or of only listening to prophets or reading from a holy book. We see him now in person, in living flesh, in living color.
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life…we declare to you,” writes the Great Mystic and Theologian John the Beloved Disciple.But Christ the Lord has not only been born for us who believe. He has been born for everyone; He has come for the sake of everyone and everything. He has come for the life of the world, the solar system, the universe, for everything in and outside of it. And where his name is not known to be Jesus, where the Holy Trinity is unknown by name or doctrine, the Lord is at work anonymously, loving, forgiving, wooing and saving. The yeast is making the whole loaf rise and one day we will see the results, when Christ shall be revealed as “all in all”.