The Nativity of the Lord - Christmas
You’d practically have to have been living under a rock
to miss the near constant news during the last three months or so
of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Inspired by popular uprisings in the Middle East,
what began in lower Manhattan with a young people’s protest
of social and economic inequality,
of high unemployment rates and corporate greed,
has spread to major cities and small towns alike
across the U.S. and around the globe.
Tonight / Today, I’d like to take the movement
to one more location: to the city of David.
That’s right—we’re going to Occupy Bethlehem.
I’ve asked a few young people to help me out…
Have you ever been part of a protest before?
There’s a first time for everything…
From what I can tell,
there are two essential elements to any good Occupy demonstration:
signs and tents.
So we have signs…
Who You Calling
Your Beast of Burden?
This Will Be No
No Child Should Have To
Sleep In A Manger!
And we have a tent…
Let’s make this a sit in…and you have a seat.
The signs seen on Wall Street have one basic theme:
things aren’t right; the world isn’t as it should be.
The precise problem can be a little tricky to put your finger on.
We’ve been told that God set this up as a paradise for us…
…but how come it doesn’t quite seem that way?
If we can recognize the need for some changes around here,
then just imagine the view from heaven!
On the outskirts of Bethlehem,
the angel announces to the shepherds:
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant…lying in a manger.
In response to this world’s many troubles,
a savior is born for us who is Christ and Lord.
Yes, he will ask us to take responsibility
for the part we ourselves have played in making a mess of things.
But he has come not just to file a complaint
about all that’s gone wrong;
no, he’s come to help us see what’s right—
what’s true and what’s good and what’s beautiful.
He has come not just to raise difficult questions or take us to task,
but to teach a new and different way of living.
He has come not just to bring
people of good will together for a common cause,
but to unite earth to heaven—
and by a new bond of love so tight
that it can never be broken.
(Talk about possibilities for upward mobility!)
And that’s because his ultimate purpose
is not economic reform or political transformation,
but to liberate us—once and for all—
from the death-dealing power of sin.
As our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI,
said so well a few Christmases ago:
God’s sign is simplicity.
God’s sign is the baby.
God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us.
This is how he reigns.
He does not come with power and outward splendor.
He comes as a baby—defenseless and in need of our help.
He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength.
He takes away our fear of his greatness.
He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child.
…God made himself small
so that we could understand him, welcome him,
and love him. (Homily at Midnight Mass, 2006)
So God’s sign in occupying Bethlehem is a little baby.
What about God’s tent?
In sending us his Only Begotten Son—
who is “God from God and Light from Light,”
“born of the Father before all ages”—
God gives us his Word.
Now, to say that God “gives his Word,”
is not to say that he seals a spoken deal with a handshake
or signs on the dotted line—
as we might expect in business or politics…
…arrangements all-too-easily broken,
as the Occupiers are quick to point out.
Rather, God’s Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us
or, as the original Greek text literally says,
the Word became flesh and pitched his tent among us.
In the mystery of the Incarnation,
God comes to us in person—in human flesh and blood—
to establish a new and eternal covenant,
fulfilling his promise to renew this weary world,
to deliver a people who have walked too long in the darkness.
And God continues to give us his Word
in the words of the Scriptures, in the life of the Church,
above all in the mystery of the Eucharist.
Christmas, my friends, is not just a look back,
as if God paid us a brief, passing visit long, long ago.
No—the heart of Christmas is something that remains present.
You see, the Lord is the most resolute Occupier of all;
our God has come to stay.
And if God has “pitched his tent” right here among us,
then shouldn’t we make every effort to stay right here with him?
After all, what God most desires to occupy is not a manger,
but our deepest thoughts, our daily words and deeds—
to dwell always in our hearts.
In that tiny child born to Mary and guarded by Joseph,
the baby boy announced by angels and adored by shepherds,
the God who made heaven and earth,
who will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
came not to occupy only one tiny village in Judea,
nor to save a single nation.
His appearing is meant not for a few, but for many—
That, my friends, is good news of great joy…for all the people.
Like the shepherds,
let us praise and glorify God by our lives
that we might be signs for others
that the King of Heaven has come to occupy the earth,
that the true Light has shone in the land of gloom,
that God has pitched his tent among us—and dwells with us still.