Homily: “On the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ”

Offered by Father Matthew Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Eve of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2017.

It is with joy and thankfulness in my heart that I wish you all a merry Christmas on this most solemn feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. And a merry white Christmas, assuming the roads do not get too slippery. This holy night is shining with the brightness of the true Light, and what wonder it is to consider how indeed this Light is for the whole world—how one by one through the time zones of our world, thousands of churches and religious communities gather to sing, to pray, and to celebrate the wonderful and inexpressible mystery of the Blessed Virgin Mary conceiving the Son of God Almighty, bearing in her pure womb the Lord of Heaven, and giving birth to the world’s Redeemer amid the choir of holy Angels filling the air with the hymn of glory. Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by His most loving presence, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man.

All though Advent, Sunday by Sunday before the reading of the Gospel, we sang the hymn Joy to the World. Our singing of this hymn was an invitation to recognize how all of creation is wrapped up in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, how, with the eyes of faith, we might see how the fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains repeat the sounding joy; how, with the ears of faith, we might hear heaven and nature sing; and how, with the mind of faith, we might affirm that, yes, He rules the world with truth and grace, with boundless wonders of His love.

And can we doubt that full of boundless wonder was Mary, the true Mother of God, and Joseph, her most chaste spouse? God had sent His Son from heaven into the womb of the Blessed Virgin. Indeed, He whom the whole world cannot contain was cloistered in Mary’s womb. He who was sent as God’s saving Word, the divine Word inexhaustible, and sent as our Bread of Life, was now wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger in Bethlehem, a word itself that means “House of Bread.” The Bread of Life—Jesus—was born in the house of bread, so that the prophecies of old might be fulfilled, the sign of God might be recognized, that we might see ourselves marvelously remade in Him, the Bread of heaven.

And why was He wrapped in swaddling clothes? The newborn Christ was wrapped as newborn lambs were wrapped who were consecrated, that is, set apart, to be offered as sacrifice in the Temple for Jewish worship. These lambs were kept without spot or blemish so that they would be an acceptable sacrifice. So these religious shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, upon hearing with their ears of faith from the glorious angels that born this day in the city of David was a Savior, Christ the Lord, spoken of old by the prophets, will be found wrapped in swaddling clothes, by God’s grace found this Child and recognized in great joy that this, this is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. This is why today we sing to the Lord a new song, and why the whole earth sings. Born today is our Savior, Christ the Lord, and blessed are all those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.

And blessed as well is Mary, the gracious Mother of our Redeemer. God indeed was pleased with her because of her virginity, how she herself was always amid the angelic presence, the deepest meaning of “virginity.” Yet it was through her humility that she conceived Jesus. Why? Because Mary conceived Jesus in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb. She heard the will of God, and she said Yes. May we, brothers and sisters, share in the joyful humility of Mary—that the Holy Spirit may be pleased to overshadow our souls, to enlighten our spirits, indeed that we may conceive this night Jesus in our hearts, and bear Him in all moments of this night, and all the twelve days of the Christmas season. Amen.