December 25: The Nativity of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ
Epistle: Galatians 4:4-7
Gospel: Matthew 2:1-12
Christ is Born!
Like at Pascha, the early Church would baptize catechumens at Christmas. And as with Great Lent, the ascetical discipline before Christmas reflects the final preparations of candidates for Holy Baptism.
At our baptism, we are adopted by God; we are joined to the Father in Jesus Christ through the power and operation of the Holy Spirit. It is at baptism that God says “Yes!” to us.
This divine affirmation of the human person isn’t limited to baptism. God said “Yes!” to me, to you, to each of us, at the moment when He created us in our mother’s womb. We can think of the whole of our lives—from conception, to natural death, through the Last Judgment—as God saying “Yes!” to us.
This divine affirmation, however, isn’t the same as saying God approves of everything I do. I sin—I say in ways great and small—”No!” to God. And yet at no point does God withdrew His love and grace from me. The great, really unbearable, tragedy and irony of sin is that God loves me even as I turn my back on Him.
The “Yes!” that God says to each of us is a terrible honor. What I mean by this is that God will not redeem me against my will. God respects my freedom even in those moments when I use it to enslave myself to the powers of sin and death (see 1 Corinthians 15:56 and Romans 8:2).
This is why to the myriad acts of divine affirmation of human freedom we must add the Last and Great Judgment which is to come. In the Last Judgment, God says “Yes!” to the person I have made myself to be; He respects my freedom to turn away from Him. This isn’t to say that God withdraws His love from me—He doesn’t—but rather that I can, and sadly do, choose not to return that love. What else is sin but saying “No!” to the God Who says “Yes!” to us?
And what an act of divine affirmation we celebrate today!
God’s affirmation of humanity extends beyond creation, even beyond judgment, to include His taking on our life as His own. He became as we are, so that we may become as He is to paraphrase St Athanasius the Great. The Incarnation of the Son and the deification of the human person are two sides of one mystery, of God’s “Yes!” to us.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have prepared for this day, we returned again and again to the need for each of us to say “Yes!” to God. Now, let me say this one more time but with more precision.
The whole of our Christian life can be summed up in this: Saying “Yes!” to the God Who first said “Yes!” to us.
The whole of the sacramental life is God saying “Yes!” to us.
The whole of our ascetical life is removing anything in our lives that keeps us from saying “Yes!” to the God Who first said “Yes!” to us.
The whole of the evangelistic life of the Church is telling people of the God Who says “Yes!” to them.
The whole of the philanthropic life of the Church is saying “Yes!” with God to those who are in material, social or spiritual need.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day in which we celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God and His birth in a cave for us and our salvation, let us reaffirm and deepen our commitment as disciples, apostles and evangelists of Christ! Let us on this day say “Yes!” to the God Who first said “Yes!” to us!
Christ is Born!