“He Came Among His Own.”
Christmas Eve, 2014
I want to begin by saying that the reason why you’re here tonight is of no consequence. If you’re at Liturgy every Sunday, whether you’re what we often call a “C & E” Christian-and that doesn’t stand for Church of England, but rather “Christmas and Easter”- it doesn’t matter. All that matters this evening is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Judea, and while that sounds like “old news”-though maybe “good news” in a generically Christian sort of way-the better news is what St. John has to say, He came among his own.
To put that a bit differently, The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
I don’t get too excited about angels in the sky singing, shepherds in the field abiding, the wise men from afar bearing gifts, the holy family, or even the baby in the manger, but what I do become incredibly excited about is that Christ took on human flesh-he became a man- and in doing so, he took upon himself every rotten, wounded, sick, horrific, part of me, and in return he gave himself to me.
And he didn’t just do it for me-he’s done it for everyone, regardless of whether they’re devout Christians, C&E Christians, marginal Christians or atheists: there is no part of humanity anywhere that Christ has not taken upon himself and in doing so, healed, made whole. Now not everyone knows it, and that’s as much the fault of the Church as it is those who live in ignorance, but Christ hasn’t given up on anyone which is precisely why the “old news” that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Judea is still “good news,” for Christ became a man, lived among men, and still searches….perhaps even for you.
Now this is important to everyone tonight by virtue of the fact that you are here, at this Liturgy-for whatever the reason might be: keep peace in the family, duty, desire, make your parents happy, make your mother happy give your favorite pastor a gift, whatever, the fact is that you’re here and that means that at some level, you believe in God—and that’s a good thing.
Maybe your faith isn’t as refined as the person next to you, and maybe those who believe their faith is refined isn’t quite as perfect as they might think, but that’s OK too, for you see Christ still came among us as a man-not as the God of the Old Testament, in a fiery cloud or whirlwind, but as one of us; it’s Genesis in reverse: he became bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, precisely so that none of us would be frightened or afraid to approach him, for you see he hasn’t come in judgment or wrath, but rather in mercy and peace; with outstretched arms and not a clenched fist. And tonight he’s come again, among his own.
Belief in God is a good thing, but it’s not the only thing; St. James reminds us that even the demons believe in God. Belief in the Nativity story too is a good thing, but it’s not the only thing either. No one should ever start with a “belief in God”-after all what does that mean? Tonight there’s a historical, prophetical, and scriptural reality held out once again to the entire world, that transcends angels, mangers and wise men, and it’s that reality that needs to be believed, yes; but better still apprehended and acted upon: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Judea, that is to say, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, as a man.
And he came among his own; did you hear that? Were you listening-I know no one wants a lengthy Christmas Eve sermon, and neither do I, I despise long and windy sermons, but you need to get this: he came among his own, which can only mean that his flesh, his bone, his blood, his skin-his biology if you will-was identical to our own, after all who was frightened at his coming? No one looked at him in the manger and fled in terror or fear!
You are his “own.”
So no matter who you are, how often you attend a Liturgy or pray, no matter why you’re here this evening, you have a reason to rejoice: the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, for-no-other-reason-than-to-seek-and-to-save-the-lost. No one then should be frightened, no one should believe that he or she is not loved by Christ, no one should think that there is some sin, some roadblock, some hindrance between them and our Father, for Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Judea, that is to say, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, as a man.
Brothers and sisters, you are loved beyond what you can possibly imagine: Christ has come into our flesh, making us children of God, with himself as the firstborn.
Tonight, once again, we will celebrate that great gift of life, of forgiveness, of mercy, of healing and of peace with God in the Eucharist. Tonight Christ will again come among his own, with his Father and the Holy Spirit as the entire Trinity celebrates with us tonight that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Judea; the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, as a man.
Finally-and that’s the first word you’ve been waiting to hear-I want to leave you with what the centurion in Matthew 8 said to Jesus: Lord I am not worthy that you should come into my home, but only say the word… “only say the word” brothers and sisters………………….
Our Lord didn’t “say” the Word, he became the Word, and that Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
And now the second word you’re waiting for: AMEN!
 While there are no direct quotes in this piece from specific Fathers, I owe them all a debt beyond repayment. For better or for worse, their words and their wisdom have largely shaped my own theological thought. In this particular piece I was inspired by the work of Bernard of Clairvaux; when you read his Christmas homilies you cannot help but come away thinking that he was a man for whom the Incarnation was one of the greatest joys of his life-as it should be for ours!