January 04, 2017
Fr. Roberto M. Jorvina
It is so refreshing and invigorating to be in the presence of the people of God inspite of the fact that the past days were very challenging and quite tiring. Some of you perhaps have travelled; some have stayed at home, but have been busy with parties and preparing things. It is so easy to miss on the true essence of why we are doing all of what we are doing. It is so easy to fall prey into what the prophet Isaiah said in the very beginning of his prophesy in Isaiah 1:2-3 when he said, “Listen, O heavens, and hear O earth; For the Lord speaks, ‘Sons I have reared and brought up but they have revolted against Me. An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know and My people do not understand.”
We are here to understand in a reinforcing way all that we have been taught and listened to during the past weeks. The gates of the Church were changed and are now called the Portals of Praise. Isaiah 60 says, “His gates shall be called praise and His walls salvation.” Nobody enters the Portals of Praise frowning, upset or carrying a burden. Praise has a beautiful message that we have. We were encouraged to level up our praise, but also, our altar has levelled up. This is telling us that we should level up in our Christianity because this is God’s message to us.
This is 2017 and we should level up. We have to begin to realize that if there is anything that is going to happen in our Christian life, it is to open ourselves to God to make it happen. We have to respond to what God is calling us and what He has for us to do.
I would like to dwell on the message of Christmas. Luke 2 says, “The angel appeared and said, ‘Do not be afraid because I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you. He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you. You will find a babe wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.’ Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly hosts appeared with the angel praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven; and on earth peace to those on whom His favour rests.’”
There are three messages of Christmas. First, Christmas is joy and celebration. “I bring you good news of great joy!” Joy to the world because the Lord has come. The first message of Christmas is a message of joy which the messenger brought. This is good news of great joy for everyone – for all people. This is something that we must cherish. It is a time of celebration. We celebrate God breaking through man’s dilemma and man’s life. It is a great time of celebration, which is why we party; we have celebrations; we have feast. It is time of great joy and celebration and let us not allow anything to spoil it.
The second message of Christmas is God’s salvation. “Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you.” God wants to save men. It is His passion. He prepared it. The whole drama was set from the time man allowed himself to be deceived and to disobey God. The stage has been set. The lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world was already prepared because it is God’s heart to save men. It is God’s heart to bring salvation to men. The song says, “No more let sin or sorrow grow nor thorns infest the ground because He comes to make His blessing flow far as the curse is found.”
The third message of Christmas is Christmas is man’s reconciliation. “Glory to God in the highest heaven; and on earth, peace to those on whom His favour rests.”
Christmas is a time of celebration, a time of salvation and a time of reconciliation. Who do you invented the thought that most family reunions happen during Christmas time? Who do you think created the statement, “Patawarin mo siya. Pasko naman,eh.” Where did these come from? Christmas is a time to remember that God did not count our sins against us. God loves us. God is not mad at us. God has saved us and now, we are also to be reconciled to each other. If we are on the eleventh day of Christmas and we still feel a bit of hatred or bitterness to anyone, we should remove this because this is a time of reconciliation, a time of really being one and being made one.
This is God’s supreme act. This is Christmas – an act that is totally contrary to the expectations of men and the spirit of the age. It is so different from what men expected. How will God save man? There were many options that men were thinking of. In fact, they missed it. Caesar and Herod were two great political figures at that time. They were the staunch leaders, the most popular men at that time who were seeking for fame, popularity, prestige and both were willing to defend their ambitions even if it meant the annihilation, the death, the destruction, the elimination of those who would threaten their position of power and glory.
God’s love was revealed at this particular time. Love does strange things this is why it is said that love is a many splendored thing. It is an act totally contrary to the expectations of man. Love would take risks without even knowing what will be the price. Because God gave man a gift of free will, will anyone be saved and accept this gift? God took the risk. All of heaven’s resources were placed on this. Love does unusual things that many call foolish. On the first Christmas day, God’s foolishness was revealed to be wiser than men, and His weakness was revealed to be stronger than men. On that Christmas night, it came by a surprise.
One aspect of Christmas that we could preach is the Christmas is warfare. It is a time where God invades ‘enemy’ territory, a territory deceptively taken by the enemy. In warfare, the element of surprises is critical. None of the rulers of this world knew for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. How would you play the task of conquest which comes through preparation? As Christmas is an act of warfare, it was like the D-day, the day of deliverance; the day when they got to a little town called Bethlehem. God was proclaiming this warfare against sin and death that had laid hold on God’s creation for many years. The stage was now set for God to reveal His plan which for ages was a mystery, but has now been revealed. The preparation had taken centuries, but now it was time for the Conqueror to land on enemy occupied territory. He came in humility, not in a big army. He came silently, not in a loud clash. He came to finish the conquest, and thirty years later, He concluded it with a great act of humility that the world has ever seen. “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men.”
True peace can never be forged by steel. It cannot be forged by arms. When Jesus was taken by the high priest’s people, Jesus said, “You don’t live by the sword because those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Put it away because My peace is a different kind.” It is peace of conquest. It is a peace that will conquer but in a different manner. It is the peace where in a humble babe came. In contrast to Caesar and Herod, a humble babe was born in a manger. It was not a Caesar in his chariot who won the battle but the real Prince of Peace.
Philippians 2:5-11 says, “Your attitude should be the kind that was shown us by Jesus Christ, who, although He was God did not demand and cling to His rights as God, but laid aside His mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. He humbled Himself even further going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross. Yet, it was because of this that God raised Him up to the heights of heaven and gave Him a name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The message of Christmas is a message of humility. It is not a message of pomp, but it is a message that God wants us to bring to the world – a life and hope for everyone. It is a message where having a point is not the point. It is a message where we propagate what we think is right at the expense of broken relationships. It is a message of setting aside your own interests, your own desires. It is a message of giving, and of surrender. This is something that we have to unwrap in our lives. We all received Christmas gifts. Have you begun to use it, to partake of it? Is it useful in your lives?
The greatest gift is with us today. Are we using that gift? Are we allowing it to change our lives or will we go through another year as the same people going through the difficulties and the weaknesses that we have?
The first step that we must take in order for the change and the transformation to happen is to empty ourselves to become humble. Humility is the message we need to have because this is the name of Jesus. It is the message of Christmas.
Christmas is celebration; Christmas is salvation; Christmas is reconciliation. Christmas is also a time for mission. It is an embarking, a sending out for us. From John 14:7-12, it says, “Jesus said, ‘If you really know Me, you will know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.’ Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.’ Jesus answered, ‘Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have among you for such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority (this is humility), rather it is the Father living in Me who is doing His work. Believe Me when I say that I am in the Father and that the Father is in Me. Or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves because truly I tell you, whoever believes in Me will do the works that I have been doing and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.’”
The union of Christ with the Father is the same union we have with Him in Christmas. Christmas is all about emptying ourselves so that it is no longer “I who live, but it is Christ, born in the manger as a Savior, who now lives in me and the life that I now live in this body, I live by faith in that Baby who was born in the manger.” This gift was given to us. Jesus Christ came to reveal the character, the ability, and the power of God, so that in an even greater way, in a greater company of men and women, you and me, today, can reveal the character, the ability and the power of God to the world.
We are united with God through Christ in Christmas. This involves the emptying of ourselves to become with the life of Jesus. This is why St. Paul said in Timothy 1:12, “I thank Christ Jesus, our Lord, who has given me strength that He has considered me trustworthy appointing me to His service.” Christmas is a time of appointment; it is a time of mission. It is not about us receiving gifts, but it is about us going out now and taking this message of Christmas to the world.
Christmas never ends. Bishop Ariel challenged us last Sunday to let Christmas be every day. It did not stop on December 25 or when you went back to school or to work. The message of Christmas is a message of life to the world. It is a message of celebration and joy; it is a message of salvation; it is a message of reconciliation; and it is a message with a mission, and this is our mission as God’s people.