And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. Luke 2:8-9
Caesar Augustus would have made a good modern day ruler. Twenty centuries before “dot” met “com” he hungered for data. He wanted to track how many people made up his far-flung and glorious kingdom, where they lived, and especially how much they earned so that he could get his “fair share.” But instead of sending out census takers he ordered everyone to report to his hometown in order to be “registered.” It was a brilliant plan he was sure, but what Augustus did not know is that it was really God’s plan, God’s design to get Joseph and Mary out of Nazareth where they lived, and into Bethlehem just in time for the Virgin to give birth to her Holy Child, and to fulfill the prophecy that the Son of David should be born in the City of David.
Something similar is going on today. As the world descends into a new Dark Age nearly every trace of the Christ Child has been erased from Christmas. He has been replaced by snow people in colorful scarves and frolicking polar bears in snowflake-speckled stocking caps. But what they forgot to remove are the Christmas lights which for centuries have signaled that Jesus is the Light of the World. They are found adorning houses great and small, on the headquarters of mighty corporations and on the walls of greasy diners – even the White House with its glowing tree announces, without knowing it, that Jesus is the Light of the world.
Why is this True Light so important? Only because there is there is so much darkness, in the world and in each of our hearts. A darkness which Isaiah describes as deep, oppressive, burdening, and enslaving, but on Christmas the Light that scatters all Darkness came into the world. “For to us a child is born, unto us a Son is given!” A human child and a divine Son one and the same! This is shown by His name: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
But you might wonder, how can a child set me free from my darkness? How can a child break the chains forged by my long habits of sin? How can a child drive away present pain and future fear from my trembling heart? Is this really possible? This Child can do it, for in Him the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation for all men! He comes to purify us from every stain of sin and to reconcile us to God by faith, but He does more: He also teaches us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions so that by the Spirit’s power we might learn to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in this present age, and in anticipation of the righteousness, innocence and blessedness that will be ours in the age to come.
If you have tried to walk this way before and failed time after time know that the Child comes to you anew this day to pardon all your sins, and to give you a new beginning and a fresh start. He did not come so that you would stay stuck in your old way of living. What good would that do? He came, instead, to give you salvation, to deliver you from the bondage of sin, to bring you into His Light and to replace the works of the Flesh with the Fruit of the Spirit. That is why the angels were so joyous on the night of His birth and why their song rang out over the hills and startled the drowsy shepherds. They could scarcely contain their joy at what this Child had come to do, to be the Savior of our fallen race.
Notice that God did not send us a “helper,” someone who might assist us to better manage the darkness, or to cope with it. We need much more than that. We need Someone to shatter the Darkness with the Light of His own Glory and redeeming love and that is what the Christ Child came to do. This is the “good news of great joy for all people,” that God sent His Son into the flesh to assume our flesh into the Godhead. He sent His Son into our flesh so that ours might be cleansed, healed, restored, and raised up. He sent His Son into our flesh so that in the flesh He might carry all human sin to death and leave it behind in the grave! He sent His Son into our own flesh in order to raise our flesh from death, incorruptible, and bring it glorified to the Father’s right hand triumphant over all our enemies. This is why the Angels sang on that holy night and why we repeat their hymn of glory in the Mass still today, because lost men who had wandered off into the deepest possible darkness now have a way back home. The Light in which the angels ever rejoice shines in the darkness of a world gone wrong, so that being joined to His light the children of men might become the children of God. This Child opens the way back to paradise and raises us higher than ever we fell!
As we come today to kneel before Him, the holy Child of Bethlehem, the Man of the Cross, our Risen and Reigning Lord comes to us as silently and wondrously as He came into the world that first Christmas night. Under the mystery of the bread and wine He gives us the very flesh and blood that He assumed from His Holy Mother and in which He won salvation. He says to us: “I am your light. I will drive away the darkness! I will break the chains of sin! I will make you a people prepared for the joyous Age which is already full in me and will be full in you. How can we respond to such a Gospel but to join with the shepherds and angels, as we fall down before the Holy Child and worship this Living Light, the Light that was before time began and the Light that will be when time is no more – our Jesus, our Emmanuel, our Lord, our God, and our Savior – to whom be glory with the Father and Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages. Amen.
~Rev. Dean Kavouras