The Risk of Being Born

Homily for Christmas, 2016

Isaiah 9:2-7
Titus 2:11-14
Luke 2:1-14(15-20)
Psalm 96

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A War’s Ripples: Syrians arriving on Lesbos, a Greek island, by Santi Palacios (AP)

For my homily this evening I will refer to the photos printed in the order of service on the front and back covers, and on page 11. The photos were cover photos for the New York Times in the fall of 2015.

These photos of young Syrian families help us to imagine what it might have been like for the Holy Family at the first Christmas 2,000 years ago.   As the husband attends with concern to his wife in the cover photo, so I imagine Joseph to have tended with concern to Mary as she traveled, full-term, to Bethlehem.  Maybe – as is the woman in the photo – Joseph even wrapped Mary in a blanket to keep her warm.  Like the mothers in the field care for their infants in the photo on page 11, so I imagine Mary to have been in fields with Jesus as they traveled home from Bethlehem, occasionally stopping to rest and nurse.  Like the boy on the back cover looking up to the woman helping him with a coat, so I imagine Jesus to have looked up to adults helping him when the Holy Family fled to Egypt to escape King Herod, for – like the refugee boy in the photo – he probably needed clothing, too, after his family fled suddenly in the middle of the night. Continue reading

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A Sacrifice for God in Syria

My prayer that I might live to see you all face to face has been granted. In fact, I have been given more than I asked for, since I now hope to greet you in the chains of a prisoner of Christ Jesus, if his will finds me worthy to reach my journey’s end. One thing only I beg of you: allow me to be a libation poured out to God, while there is still an altar ready for me. Then you can form a choir of love around it and sing hymns of praise to the Father in Christ Jesus for allowing Syria’s bishop, summoned from the realms of the rising sun, to have reached the land of its setting. How good it is to be sinking down below the world’s horizon toward God that I may rise again into the dawn of his presence!

I am writing to all the churches and assuring them that I am truly in earnest about dying for God, provided you put no obstacles in the way. I beg you to do me no such untimely kindness. Let me be a meal for the beasts, for it is they who can provide my way to God. I am God’s wheat, to be ground fine by the teeth of lions so that I become the purest bread for Christ. Intercede with him on my behalf, that by their instrumentality I may be made a sacrifice to God. Continue reading