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Saved Through the Bath of Rebirth

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"Christmas is more than barging up and down department store aisles and pushing people out of the way. Christmas is another thing finer than that. Richer, finer, truer, and it should come with patience and love, charity, compassion." ~ Rod Serling

In his Christmas Homily, believed to have been delivered during the early stages of a papacy that spanned the years 441-460, Saint Leo the Great greeted the congregation in attendance with the following words:

“Dearly beloved, today our Savior is born; let us rejoice. Sadness should have no place in the birthday of life. The fear of death has been swallowed up; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness. No one is shut out from this joy; all share the same reason for rejoicing. Our Lord, victor over sin and death, finding no man free from sin, came to free us all.”

He encourages the faithful to acknowledge the dignity that is ours, urging us to live lives that recognize the fact that we were made a partaker of the divine nature. “Be mindful of Whose Head, and of Whose Body, you are a member,” he goes on to say, a direct reference to Saint Paul’s Mystical Body of Christ discourse, which he used in his letters to both the Corinthians and the Romans, of which Pope Pius XII would go on to write about in his encyclical Mystici corporis christi in 1943. https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Mystici-Corporis-Christi-Revisited

“Remember,” he would say in conclusion “that wrestled from the powers of darkness, thou art now translated into the Light and the Kingdom of God. By the sacrament of baptism you have become the temple of the Holy Spirit. Do not, by evil deeds, drive out from you such a One dwelling within thee, and submit yourself again to the bondage of the devil. Because your price was the Blood of Christ; because in strictness He shall judge you, Who in mercy has redeemed you, Who with the Father and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, in the world without end.” It was for Homilies such as this one that Saint Leo the Great was named a Doctor of the Church in 1574.

So few among us truly know of God’s love for us. It’s a message that must be unchained, and delving into the rich treasure trove of writings such as these serve to compliment the many great modern day evangelists. For God’s love has never changed. It never will change.

"For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames” declares the prophet Isaiah in today’s 1st Reading (Isaiah 9:1-6), evoking images of the flame of God's love and the fire of the Holy Spirit as Jesus comes into the world to end the misery of war, violence and injustice. The people who walked in darkness have indeed seen a great light (Isaiah 9:1). They shall be called the holy people, the redeemed of the Lord, and you shall be called a city that shall not be forsaken (Isaiah 62:12).

Our 2nd Reading (Titus 2:11-14) reminds us that the Advent Season is merely a microcosm of how we are called to live, “temperately, justly and devoutly, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.”

We are born for the word because we were created through the word. All things came to be through the word, including humanity. From the very beginning we have been stamped by the word; destined for union with the word of God. The world has its very being through God but does not know God. But because we are of God, we yearn to live in him by our very nature. That is the tragedy of sin; it is a denial of our true identity, our very self. God became human so that humans can become God, sharers in the divine life. Yet we don’t know him; we run from the truth into the arms of that which is not what we truly desire. But to all who accept him, God gave them power. The power to become children of God.

The great German Theologian Friedrich von Bodelschwingh once said that “Advent and Christmas are like a keyhole through which a ray of light from home shines and brightens our path.” Our ears thirst to hear today’s Gospel Story (Luke 2:1-14) for we are part of it. As the angel proclaims to the shepherds, so too is the message meant for us: “Do not be afraid, for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today, in the city of David, a Savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”

Those who revel in this great message of joy and hope will no longer be enslaved to needless worry and useless anxiety. God, who is love, in sending his son, has saved the world. The world in all its seduction promises happiness. Only Jesus delivers it. After all, a thousand times in history a baby has become a king. But only once in history did a King become a baby.

The quote I chose as a lead-in to today’s Christmas Reflection was written by Rod Serling for a Twilight Zone Episode entitled “Night of the Meek.” It starred Art Carney as a boozy, big-hearted, seasonally-employed Department Store Santa Claus who had a love for the marginalized, gift giving, the poor, the orphaned, gin and whiskey....not necessarily in that order. Unlike the bizarre and tragically ironic endings that oftentimes accompanied this brilliant and groundbreaking TV Show however, this particular episode could not have had a happier or more fittingly beautiful ending. Without revealing it, I would encourage you all to seek it out through the magic of late night cable television reruns or YouTube. Serling’s closing monologue for the episode was as follows:

“A word to the wise, to all the children of the 20th century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards. There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas and there‘s a special power reserved for the little people. In short, there is nothing mightier than the meek.”

I wish you all a wonderful Christmas, filled with much happiness, laughter and joyful anticipation for the Savior who dwells among us and who is to come again.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!” ~ Isaiah 52:7

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