HOMILY FOR CHRISTMAS EVE – YEAR B
THEME: CHRISTIANISM VS THE NEGATIVE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS!
By: Fr. Benedict Agbo
* Is 9 : 1 – 7, Tit 2 : 11 – 14, Lk 2 : 1 – 14.
According to Fr Emma Onuh of blessed memory,
‘Christianism is the crusade – ground – Christianity of the present day where Christ is made to look like that infamous fig tree of Jesus’ disgust, having loud shoots (big Church structures) yet having no fruits, cf Matt 21 : 19. It is the Christianity of imagination and not of faith. For this reason, Jesus begins the sermon on the mountain with ‘Do not imagine…’ cf Matt 5 : 17′.
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I can almost hear Jesus reechoing the same words in all our Churches today : ‘Do not imagine that you are celebrating my birthday!’ The most pathetic line in today’s gospel reading is Lk 2 :11 : ‘There was no room for them (Jesus, Mary and Joseph) in the Inn at Bethlehem’ – the town of David. If there is no room for the Word of God in our hearts ; if there is no possibility for us to receive Jesus today in a state of grace, then the tragedy is the same.
* Story of a modern birthday party celebrated in America where the child was systematically kept away. When people asked for the whereabout of the child, the response of the parents were : ‘The child is not here : It is with its grandparents because it will disturb us with its crying’.
How did the Christmas celebration begin? No specific date of Christ’s birth was recorded by the early fathers but the celebration of a special feast pertaining to it was refered to as early as 200 AD by St Clement of Alexandria. There was this popular pagan feast of the Invisible Sun which had been proclaimed the principal patron of the Roman Empire with a temple dedicated to him. Inculturation therefore took place from the 4th century with the conversion of Emperor Constantine and Popes from this time began to celebrate 3 Masses on that day : Mass of the Angels (midnight), Mass of the Shepherds (dawn) and Mass of the lights (day). That was the origin of the word ‘Christmas’ from old English ‘Cristes Maesse’ which roughly means ‘Christ’ s Mass’.
The Christmas midnight Mass is the celebration of the night that mirrors the drama that took place when heaven touched earth and God became man. The silent night, the holy night when, according to St John Chrysostom ‘What the human mind could never have conceived or hoped for (see King Ahaz’ s unbelief, Is 7 : 14), God has bestowed upon us ‘. St Thomas Aquinas described the mystery of incarnation as ‘The miracle of miracles’. That’s why St John says in 1 Jn 4 : 1 – 4 that the spirit of the anti Christ denies Christ in all its ramifications. They oppose Christ and make even the celebration of Christ’s birthday today an avenue for the highest perpetration of evil in the whole world. Some pastors have told the world that the inscription of ‘IHS’ (Iesu Hominem Salvatorem – Jesus the Saviour of Mankind) on our Eucharistic vessels and liturgical apparachtit is only a representation of the 3 idols of Egypt : ISIS, HORUS & SEPP all in a bid to deter Catholics from honouring Christ’s birth through the mass – the highest celebration of worship in the Roman Catholic faith.
The mass is the sacrifice of the body and blood of Christ : not a new sacrifice but a reenactment, Lk 20 : 22. The letter to the Hebrews made it succinctly clear that ‘None of the gifts and sacrifices of the old priesthood (of Aaron) can bring any worshipper to perfection in his conscience.. But now Christ has come as the highpriest of all the blessings which were to come… Heb 9 : 9. Not to destroy priesthood, Heb 5 : 1 but to institute a new type where his flesh is the center of attraction, Heb 10 : 19.
When the attention of Christmas celebration shifts away from the mass, what remains? Christmas means God’s presence made real in Christ. When Adam committed sin, he lost God’s presence and there was darkness, Gen 3. When Cain murdered his brother, he went away from God’s presence and continued to roam in darkness, Gen 4 :16. Moses when called back from his hiding place as a murderer was given assurance by God : ‘I shall be with you’, Ex 3 :12. God’s presence guided the Isrealites in a pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night to show them the way, Ex 13 : 21. When the Isrealites reached their permanent home they constructed the temple and installed the Ark of the Covenant as a symbol of God’s presence, 2 Chron 7 : 1 – 3. At every Christmas, this presence is celebrated as ‘Immanuel’ – God with us by the Church. Yes, ‘The people that lived in darkness have seen a great light… For a child has been born for us and a son is given ‘, Is 9 : 1 -7.
THE CHALLENGE OF INCUTURATION The greatest challenge of the Church at every Christmas remains the challenge of Inculturation – the challenge of overthrowing the pagan culture with all its elements of darkness with the Christian culture of light. Our primitive culture was full of fetish beliefs, full of consumerism, full of violence and full of hatred and oppression of women. We can do better now!
Let us go to Bethlehem which literally means house of bread. It is the bread of the Eucharist that gives us power to become children of God, Jn 1 :10, Jn 6 :54. After so many centuries of Christianity, it is unfortunate that many are still living in the darkness of sin. Many have preferred darkness to the light of Christ, Jn 1 :9. Many Christians are wont to celebrating Christmas without the light of Christ : no repentance, no confession of their sins, no peace in their families… Many have come this night just to make noise with their knockouts and Christmas guns as if the Christ we are celebrating was a noise maker. May we take advantage of this year’s Christmas as a moment of reconciliation with God and neighbour, exchange of gifts and visits, making new friends and reconnecting with old ones and generally spreading the light of Christ. Let’s emphasize the positive spirit of Christmas rather than the negative.
Happy Christmas to you beloved friends!
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