First Sunday after Christmas Day

St Bartholomew’s, Granite City–John 1:1-14

(This are my working notes. There was no developed text for this homily.)

Happy Sixth Day of Christmas. I hope you are continuing to celebrate!


Christmas Eve … familiar story/familiar words … Caesar Augustus … long journey to Bethlehem … “days were accomplished” … “no room in the inn” … angels and shepherds


We have (appropriately) sweetly sentimentalized this narrative … Prime example: In the Bleak Midwinter … “breast full of milk and a manger full of hay” … and are moved to respond, “What can I give him, poor as I am? … my heart”) … This is the public Christian face of Christmas


By contrast: Christmas morning, and the First Sunday … John: no baby Jesus, but the pre-incarnate Logos: “In the beginning was the Word … light shines in the darkness … Word was made flesh,” and moved into the neighborhood.


This is no story with a plot we can follow (drama, conflict, crisis, resolution), or characters we can empathize with. It appeals to our heads, not our hearts. But it’s a mistake to just blow it off for those reasons.


Now we celebrate not so much the feast of the *nativity* as the feast of the *incarnation* —

  • God (who is by nature pure spirit) taking human flesh,
  • the eternal becoming bound by time (per Luke: in the days of Caesar Augustus, when Quirinius was governor of Syria), the one who is omnipresent becoming subject to geographical particularity (Bethlehem of Judea),
  • one who is rich beyond measure being born to a humble (poor?) couple from a humble village,
  • one who has nothing to fear subjecting himself to the necessity of fleeing for his life just days after being born,
  • one who was present at creation, not as a creature but as creator, becoming part *of* that creation.


And why? To fully identify with us so he could save us. Homo-ousion. An iota makes all the difference in the world.


Best captured, perhaps, by the 18th century British poet Christopher Smart:


O Most mighty! O Most holy!

Far beyond the seraph’s thought,

Art thou then so mean and lowly

As unheeded prophets taught?


O the magnitude of meekness!

Worth from worth immortal sprung:

O, the strength of infant weakness,

If Eternal is so young.


God all bounteous, all creative,

Whom no ills from good dissuade,

Is incarnate, and a native,

Of the very world he made.

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