HOMILY FOR CHRISTMAS NIGHT VIGIL.
THEME: MOMENT of OF PRAYER AND GREAT JOY.
BY: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya.
Luke 2: 1-14
Beloved in Christ, keeping vigil before a major solemnity has an age-long history. By our presence here tonight we are uniting ourselves with the generations who have gone before us and who kept vigil on this night and we are uniting ourselves with the generations who will follow us who will also keep vigil in the years which we cannot see. Christmas Vigil like the Easter Vigil is a moment of prayer and of great joy. We are joyful tonight because tonight our Saviour was born for us and the mighty work of our salvation has begun.
Tonight, all over the world, people gather like we do here in Holy Angels Church, not to celebrate the emperor Augustus Caesar, the most powerful man in his time, who declared that a census be taken, and the call to which Joseph and Mary were responding while Jesus was born. We gather to celebrate that birth of an infant in a manger in the little town of Bethlehem. For it is not the emperor dressed in the finest robes who is the real lord of the world, but rather, the little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. Everywhere on earth, the birth of this child is remembered with joy.
Why does the birth of the child Jesus fill us with so much joy? We are filled with so much joy at the birth of Christ because tonight is a night of gift. Jesus Christ, the new born king is the gift. There is a knock at this very midnight, a knock on the door of our inn -the inn of our hearts. And the voice is saying “The Christ – the gift is here.”
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By becoming man, God has in a certain way united Himself with every human person. He has revealed to us the truth about who He is – He is Love. He has revealed to us also that every human being has dignity, including the unborn child, the poor, the outcast, the suffering, and the dying. By becoming man, God came to earth to deliver us from sin and death. He came to make all things new; to bring about the new creation. He took on our human nature so that we might become partakers of His divine nature, that we become sharers in the life of the Blessed Trinity. “The people who live in darkness have seen a great light.” We live in darkness, but He is light. So God descended into our darkness that we may share in His light.
Yes, Our God stoops, he stoops so low to the lowest place, and to find him, and be with him we too must be willing to stoop. God hates pride, he just can’t stand it. With humility, by descending so low to take upon himself the nature of man, he conquers pride. Darkness cannot overpower darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot defeat hate, only love can do that. Pride will not defeat Pride, only humility will do that. So God stoops.
And tonight God calls us with this same humility. He could have descended from Heaven on a lightning bolt and stunned us into fearful submission. Instead he goes to the lowest place. He comes quietly, non-violently, without threat, as an infant. But even in this lowly way, he is still calling.
Jesus comes to be born for us. But is there room in the inn of our heart to receive him?
The gospel according to St. John tells us “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (Jn 1:11) But that same passage goes on to add: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believe in his name, he gave the power to become children of God.” (John 1:12) What could be sadder than to miss this precious gift to become the very Children of God?
But what do we need to do if we are to take this gift of Christ seriously? We have taken the first step: we have set time aside in which to keep Vigil. We have listened to the word of God and it is penetrating into our hearts. Let us listen once again to the words of the Apostle in the second reading, tonight we seek to open our hearts again to welcome Christ into our lives, not simply as a consolation in our hardships but as the Master, the Lord, who alone can teach us the way to live each day. As Paul said to Titus: ‘God’s grace has been revealed…. and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God….to be self-restrained and live good and religious lives…while we are waiting in hope…having no ambition except to do good’ (Titus 2.11-14).
Once again let us be reminded that the great joy of Christmas is that God made himself as we are so that we might ever become what he is – that we, too, may share in the divine life of him who humbled himself to share own humanity. Christmas reminds us that Jesus truly is Emmanuel – God with us – and not only God with us, God who loves us.
Tonight we are being invited to begin once again a relationship of love with Jesus. As we keep vigil in this Church, we are invited by Christ through the angels who announce his presence to set aside all fear. We are called into the presence of the Christ-child. We are invited to accompany him in his journey from infancy, through childhood, to his adult life and to his death and resurrection; from this Vigil of Christmas night to the Solemn Vigil of Easter night. We are invited to surrender ourselves, the whole of ourselves into his hands so that he, Christ, may transform us by his word, and through his sacraments.
Let us pray.
Almighty God, you have poured upon us the new light of your incarnate Word: Grant that this light, enkindled in our hearts, may shine forth in our lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
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