Glory to God in the Highest. Peace on Earth. Good will to Men. In the Name...
Well, let me wish all of you a very merry and wonderful Christmas. It is a merry and wonder-filled time of year, isn't it? It's so magical, so unreal. A saintly 5th century Greek bishop, Nicholas, has been morphed into a jolly old elf who flies from the North Pole bearing gifts. We bring trees into our houses, complete with falling needles, and festoon them with lights, garlands, and ornaments. We set up manger scenes in our homes or on our lawns. And yet, at the heart of it all is a passage of scripture that doesn't mention trees, or presents, or even shepherds or stars, Wise Men or angels. Instead, all it says was that The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. God became Man, and that is the heart and soul of Christmas.
It's always seemed strange to me, then, that some of what are considered classic Christmas movies don't seem to have anything really to do with this miraculous event. I mean, where is the birth of Christ in Scrooge, or "It's A Wonderful Life", or the story of the Grinch? It doesn't seem to be there. But, we might find, to our surprise, that there is, in fact, quite a bit we can learn about the meaning of the Incarnation from those stories.
In the secular world, Christmas ends tomorrow, but, for the Church, tomorrow is the beginning of the Christmas Season which lasts for twelve days until we reach a Festival called the Epiphany. That's a Greek word meaning "to show forth" and, for Christians, it's the climax of the season, showing forth Christ to the nations of the world as represented by the visit of the Three Wise Men. You see, the Birth in the manger is all well and good to remember, but, the existence of the Saviour has to be made known for the Birth to be of any value to us, as individuals.
A great saint once wrote that "He who has found the Christ, must become a Christ to others." "He who has found the Christ, must become a Christ to others." And if Christmas is to be something more than an excuse for a party, it must lead us on, forward to the Epiphany; to the work of making the Incarnate Word known to the world by the way we live, the things we say and do, 365 days a year.
That’s the tragedy of Scrooge. It’s not that he's a miser, but that he hates people. It's not only the poor; he treats his own middle-class nephew with contempt. He doesn't see any value in human relationships or in making life, even his own, better. He agonizes over the ha'penny cost of having another slice of bread with his soup. He considers himself a man of business, but Marley's Ghost admonishes him "Mankind is our business."
Every one of us is called by God to that business. To bring peace, unity, and concord to a world of brokenness, grief, and pain. To give hope to the hopeless, love to the unloved, encouragement to the discouraged, food to the hungry, shelter to the homeless, jobs for the unemployed. And not just once a year.
That's what George Bailey discovers in "It's a Wonderful Life." He thinks he's a failure because he never realized his dreams of building monumental bridges in exotic parts of the world. But, instead, he finds that he has built hundreds of little ones connecting the people of Bedford Falls, NY. And, despite the dastardly deeds of the Grinch, the Whos down in Whoville sing, "Christmas is within our grasp so long as we have hands to clasp." That chain of clasping hands began in Bethlehem and has built bridges across continents and centuries.
Christmas comes, not just once a year, but, whenever the knowledge of Jesus Christ is given birth within another human being. So, what difference has Christ made in your life? What difference have you made in the lives of others? What does the Incarnation mean to you?
The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Tonight, we celebrate it. Tomorrow, let's do something about it.
In the Name...