Christ is born! Glorify Him!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came Wise Men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
When the Magi showed up on Herod’s doorstep in search of the “’King of the Jews,’” it must have been unsettling, I would think. Think about how we might react if we had been in his shoes and someone came knocking on the door of our home asking where the owner of the home might be when, in fact, standing in the doorway was the owner, at least we had thought we were! “Looking for the King of the Jews? Why, I’m the king!”
This is bigger, though. Bigger than Herod. Bigger than Jerusalem or Judea. Bigger even than us! The Magi have seen the star of the prophesied Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews, the Star rising up out of Jacob, as foretold by the Prophets, a Scepter arising from Israel and not departing from Judah (Gn. 49:10; Nm. 24:2-3, 5-9, 17-18). The One sought out by the Magi is the Prophet like that of Moses foretold by him (Dt. 18:15, 18), the long-desired Consolation of Israel longingly looked for by hungry eyes and yearned for in the depths of parched souls eager for redemption in Jerusalem and rest for the nation, kindred spirits having the hope of the old God-bearer Simeon and the aged Prophetess Anna (Lk. 2:25-38).
And yet, what does the Evangelist tell us but that King Herod was troubled at the request of the Magi and “all Jerusalem with him.” We can well understand why Herod was troubled, but why Jerusalem with him? Herod’s despotic rule was in jeopardy, or so he imagined. The Magi delight! Herod frets! The Magi seek to worship; Herod seeks to destroy. The Magi are lovers of wisdom and the truth; Herod is a lover only of himself and self-delusions. The Magi spare no cost in their search for the Promised One and neither will Herod! But, for totally despicable reasons.
This feast has endeared itself to the world ever since those philosopher-kings and amateur astronomers came looking, seeking, asking, knocking on Herod’s door. It has captured the hearts of many ever since the Holy Child of Bethlehem broke the stillness of that night of Mystery, when the Almighty Word of the Father leaped down from Heaven out of His royal throne, “as a fierce man of war into the midst of the land of destruction” (WS 18:14-15). That “Silent Night, Holy Night” has fueled the imaginations of all for two millennia, even old Herod’s. But Herod’s imagination got the best of him and he fell to the delusions self-contrived, threatened by the presence of an Infant albeit no ordinary infant. In the dark recesses of his troubled soul, Herod plotted the Child’s death, even before the Magi turned their faces to Bethlehem to do as the king had asked of them. Herod worships not the Child of the Blessed Virgin, but only himself. And, if he couldn’t find that Child spoken of by the Magi Whose birth was confirmed by his chief priests and scribes together, he would slaughter them all – every male child two years old and younger, following in the footsteps of another as evil as himself who had once contrived the same fate for all of captive Israel’s sons (Ex. 1:1-22)!
For many, this day and its Holy Child is indeed good news, glorious news, blessed news announcing the Presence of God in the flesh! The angelic choirs of Heaven led all of creation in joyous praise of this most glorious Birth in the skies over Bethlehem as they announced the Evangel to the shepherds (Lk. 2:1-20). But for others, perhaps many others, this day and the Child Jesus, are disturbing, if not disrupting, to plans and agendas and ideologies and theologies and prejudices and any other thing held captive by the world’s ancient darkness. Indeed, the world goes to great lengths to re-format this Child so as to make Him more palatable and easier to swallow by stealing our images and our words long associated with the Church and then re-using them with foreign meaning. The rainbow – sign of God’s everlasting promise and Covenant after the Flood (Gn. 9:8-17) – has been seized for the promotion of the LGBTQ propaganda. Ideas and words like redemption, reconciliation, toleration, mercy, justice, love, compassion, and judgment have all been re-branded by the world. What are we to expect from a world that believes it has descended from some low life form instead of being directly created by the hand of Almighty God? The world seeks, not with the heart of the Magi, but with cold calculation and engineering so that this Child is praised and glorified by the world’s reimagination of Him while it denounces all those who have followed this most Holy Child for two millennia by alleging that we have gotten this Jesus all wrong. The world has gotten Him right while the Church, blinded by her Tradition, has misunderstood Him and even misrepresented His teachings, we are told. We see this every year around Christmass and Pascha when conspiracy theories are resurrected for yet another year. We are accused of hiding the real Jesus, falsifying what He truly was about, because we are afraid of what He might actually do. The old God-bearing Simeon was right. This Child, the Holy Virgin’s Child, God’s own Child “’is destined for the fall and rising of many . . ., a sign . . . [to be] spoken against’” for He is the Revealer of human hearts, the Discloser of its secret thoughts, the Light that enlightens our darkness and the glory of His people, Israel (Lk. 2:25-35; Hb. 4:11-13).
The world has sought to co-opt this Child for its own benighted purposes; to hijack Him from the Church; to distance Him from His people of faith. And, if it can’t co-opt Him, then it will rage against this Child by raging against His Church and all those who are called by His Name. It will seek to trouble the souls of all who belong to this Child, who have been signed and sealed and delivered by His holy blood. What the world calls good and natural, the Church calls evil and unnatural. What the world calls enlightenment, the Church calls darkness and folly. What the world calls wisdom, the Church calls foolishness in the sight of God.
What we celebrate this holy day is not an astronomical anomaly. But rather it is more than the confluence of planets creating a glorious sight to behold. It is a sign – divine revelation – that portends the birth of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Herod has every reason to be deeply troubled and disturbed because he militates against this Holy Child Who comes to exert His authority, not by might nor by violence, but by His voluntary laying down of His life for all sinners, Herod included. He comes to speak the peace of God and divine goodwill to all the earth. He comes to offer the righthand of fellowship to those prodigals long estranged from the heavenly Father, living in a strange land far from Eden. He comes to heal and reconcile and restore broken down humanity by His offering up of Himself as a living sacrifice. He comes to offer us a Cross – His Cross – so that by taking it up and following Him as our true North Star, we will find Him just as the Magi found Him. By God’s tender mercy and grace. We will find Him in His Church, wrapped in the hearts of the humble faithful. We will find Him here on the Altar, lying in the manger. For the star, beloved, stands over the place where the young Child lays, and the Church is filled with His glory, “glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. . . . And of His fullness,” my dear ones, “we have all received, and grace for grace” (Jn. 1:14, 16).
Like Herod, “we ourselves were also once foolish,” beloved. We were counted among those who are
disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, . . . that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of Eternal Life (Ts. 3:3-7).
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, . . , that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Ga. 4:4-7).
Through the prayers of the Theotokos, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Christ is born! Glorify Him!
Nm. 24:2-3, 5-9, 17-18
Mc. 4:6-7; 5:2-4
Dn. 2:31-36, 44-45
Is. 7:10-16; 8:1-4, 8-10