“God Makes Known Christ’s Humanity”
Sunday, December 27, 2015: The First Sunday After Christmas Day
1 Samuel 2: 18 – 20/26 Psalm 148/Colossians 3: 12 – 17/Luke 2: 41 - 52
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
Be thankful that we are here today. Many years ago, I was talking with a priest from CEC from another country and they were talking about their attendance. He said that their membership is about one hundred, but their average Sunday attendance is about sixty people. I thought that was sad. Forty percent regularly does not come to Sunday worship. Membership and average Sunday attendance must be equal. Probably, you lose two to five percent of them, but not that which is almost half.
I am very thankful for my parents because they trained us, children, to always be on Church on Sundays. At first, it was an obligation; then, we began to understand that it is more of a thanksgiving. We get together for the Eucharist not because it is an obligation, but it is a voluntary thanksgiving on our part that we offer to God. My parents trained and raised us up this way so that it was unthinkable for us not to be on Church on Sundays. It was a must.
If you are a Christian, you are to be on Church on Sundays. It is the Lord’s Day. It is a custom like how Jesus was raised by going to the synagogue on the appointed day. My grandmother would always go to novena and she had a brown dress with a cincture and a veil on. This was the generation before and they were faithful.
For the young people I would ask, “Do you understand the meaning of Sunday’s best?” This generation’s Sunday’s best would be a tank top and beach shorts and fitflops. The term Sunday’s best term came from a tradition, meaning that you were to be in your best attire coming into the presence of the Lord. Worship the Lord in holy array and this includes what we put on this holy flesh as we present our bodies as a living sacrifice.
The parents are responsible for training children in the way that they should go. If Jesus’ parents did not train Him that way in the first place, Jesus would not have an opportunity to be in His Father’s house in the temple and do what He did with the teachers of the law and the scholars in the temple. Jesus, the human being, grew in subjection to His parents. Children should be in subjection to their parents because if they do, they will increase in wisdom, stature and in favor with God and man. I have enough confidence in our parents and if their children are subject to them, their children will increase in wisdom.
What Jesus’ parents planted in Him and He did not depart from. He ran with it and increased in it. He said that because He was trained in the right way that He should go, it came to a point in His life that He knew that He had to be in His Father’s house. It starts with the firm foundation of going to Church regularly. It was an integral part of His life to be in the Father’s house. Apparently, Jesus was also trained in the Word of God; if not, at His age of twelve years old, He would not be there to talk about the law, the things of God, about theology, and the scholars were amazed at Him.
We can say that Jesus was God, but I believe what He talked about was what His parents taught Him. It will be cheating if He spoke to them as God. I believe that Jesus was also trained in the trade of His father. He became a carpenter Himself. Parents have this responsibility to train up a child in the way that he should go so that he is well-rounded; but it starts with being a godly person. It starts with being in the Father’s house literally.
The statement, “I have to be in My Father’s house,” really means, “I have to be about my Father's business. I have to be involved in my Father’s affairs.” This is best expressed in a local community where God led us. This is our Father’s house. If a child is trained in the way that he should go, at some point, he understands; but he has to be involved in his father’s business, in God’s work no matter what the circumstance, the disappointment, the frustration, and the excuse. The child knows that he has to be involved in his Father’s work. The strength and the foundation of a child’s training will withstand anything and cause the child to increase in wisdom, stature, favour with God and man. This is why I am very thankful that we have a Church school, the Life Formation Mission, whose mission is not purely academic. Academics are secondary and the very name mission of our school is for life formation. The school is a ministry on a mission to form lives, to train up children in the way that they should go.
Being in the Father’s house is not just showing up but also being in active participation. Being involved in the affairs of our Father, in His mission, in what He wants to happen in the world – that is to know God and to make Him known. What else does being in the Father’s business mean?”
Colossians 3:12-13 says, “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance.” It doesn’t say to put on a heart of anger and to be vigilant and to watch so that you can immediately identify sin and weaknesses. It is not waylaying your brother, being on guard and on the alert of being judgmental, nitpicking, and being painstakingly reproachful. What Colossians 3 says is to put on a heart of compassion and bearing one another’s weakness. Be forgiving. In Tagalog, it says, “Kung ang Diyos nga ay nagpapatawad, tao pa kaya?” Who do we think we are that if God Himself forgives that we shouldn’t forgive? If we have received forgiveness, the least we can do is also to forgive.
Colossians 3:14, “And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” It is not theology, good lively music, a superstar preacher or leader or a cult, but the perfect bond of unity is love. Quoting the former Patriarch Adler, “CEC will not be known for its theology, for its three streams or consensus government, but for its love and relationship with each other.” The perfect bond of unity is love and this is not a characteristic.
In 1Corinthians, the Corinth people thought that the gifts are what the Church is all about – speaking in tongues, prophecy, miracle and the others. In between 1Corinthians 12 and 1Corinthians 14, St. Paul stopped talking about these gifts and in 1Corinthians 13, he said, “You must understand the gifts are not it. Love is it! It is the perfect bond of unity.” It is not an imbalanced adherence to law and justice and morality. It is love. I am not belittling the law and promoting chaos, but I am just emphasizing love.
Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” It is not animosity; not the building of walls between two people; not the building of barriers between people but reconciliation. We can always justify alienation in the name of discipline or principle or building a wall between people. In fact, God would most be justified. Psalm 51:4 says, “You are justified when you speak and blameless when you judge.”
In the incident where Jesus was in the temple, the religious leaders brought to Him a woman caught in the act of adultery. She sinned no doubt; she was guilty. Jesus said, “If you want to fulfil the Law, whoever does not have a sin, throw the first stone at her.” Nobody did. In His conversation with the woman, He asked her, “Those who have condemned you, where are they?” She said, “They are gone,” and Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” Who would have been the first and only qualified thrower of the stone? It was only Jesus but He did not throw a stone, but instead, He drew something on the ground and did not condemn her because love is the perfect bond of unity.
God could come up with a long list of reproaches against us, but He doesn’t. A favorite benediction in the CEC says that God does not count men’s sins against them. This is love. What God does instead is to initiate reconciliation and He brought peace and goodwill to all men on earth. He broke down the barrier for He so loved the world. God does this at the earth’s darkest; at man’s darkest hour; at man’s sinful state.
The song Joy to the World says, “Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled. He comes to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found.” The curse is man’s doing, but God did not overdramatize or overemphasize this. He breaks down the barriers, the walls and then reconciles. He doesn’t build a case on us and He reconciles us.
God wants us to respond by loving and by strengthening this bond which is perfected by love. We do this by being about the affairs of our Father. Further reading Colossians 3, it talks about wives, husbands, children, slaves and masters, and how that they are to obey God.
At our Clergy Conference, we were taught that God’s Word is not for everybody. As an example, maybe the favourite verse of husbands is, “Wives, be subject to the husbands.” The husbands would say, “There will be peace on earth if you would just obey this verse and our marriage will be so rosy and heavenly if you just listen and obey this verse.” God is not speaking this verse to the husband, but then husbands major on this verse. They can expound on this one verse and ignore what is for them which says, “Husbands, love your wives.” As father, they would say, “Children, this is for you,” and he can expound it for five hours also. “You obey your parents and our family would be strong and happy if you would just obey this verse.” But the father is not paying attention to what they are supposed to be paying attention to, that is, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” Employers can also quote that which is for the slaves of being subject to their masters, but they also have their word from God, which is to take care of their servants.
This is being the affairs of our Father. This is being the affairs of being Christians. As Christians, we are not just to be here on Sunday and be faithful in our offering and tithing. These are duties and obligation which we are not to see as such, but as a thanksgiving in response to God’s goodness. This doesn’t end here. Our Christianity reaches to our workplace, to our families, to our neighborhood, to our schools, and in everything we do, we do it for the glory of God.
The bottom-line is to know God and as we do, we make Him known. Have compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness, and beyond all this, love. St. Paul says be thankful of your forgiveness and love from God and respond and let the Word richly dwell in you. We have to read the Bible because how can the Word dwell in you if you don’t read the Word? Let the Word of Christ richly dwell in us. It doesn’t mean that you read through like five chapters of the Bible in one minute. Let the Word richly dwell in you and meditate on it and couple it with prayer.
Love is the perfect bond of unity even if someone is unlovable, abominable, despicable, because God does love them. If you think you can’t do it for them, do it for the Lord which should be our motive in anything that we do. For then, maybe, God will reveal to us and make us realize that we are just as despicable and probably worse than those we consider as such. Love is the perfect bond of unity, and if we might discover that we are just as despicable, we would understand and still God accepts us.
This is what being about the Father’s business is all about. This is what having to be in the Father’s house is. This is the Father’s love for us. This is what the Incarnation is all about. This is what Christmas means, and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.