Christmas is a beautiful time, but there is a temptation in missing the point. This is a great temptation, because it is easy to do. We live in a world where it is easy to miss the point. We live in a world where it is easy to miss the focus.
Every child in here tonight is on pins and needles about what is going to be under the tree in the morning. Some of you have the audacious and heretical practice of actually opening gifts on Christmas Eve. I pray for you, that you will repent and return to the Holy Orthodox way of celebrating Christmas, which is to open [them] on Christmas day, but this is neither here nor there. (Laughter in the background.) The kids are focused on that moment where they can open up their gifts. Some of us adults are in the same position.
We live in an age where it is easy to miss the point. Hence, I never will forget the first time after I had been ordained a priest and my mother asked me, “Honey, will you folks be able to at the house for Christmas by Noon on Christmas Day?”
I said, “No, Mom. I go to church on Christmas Day.”
“What? Why are you going to church on Christmas Day?”
“It’s a religious holiday…?” (..chuckle…)
It is not something we grew up with. On Christmas Day, the churches were shut and we were with our families. But, look at you—it is Christmas Eve, and you are here. Hopefully you are not going to miss the point.
And so, what is the point? Well, dear ones, the point is something cosmic. It is actually terrifying. The point is, if we actually take it seriously, if we actually embrace the whole purpose of Christmas… trust me, dear ones, the more you realize it, the more you think about it, the more you contemplate what is actually being celebrated this evening, your knees will knock together, because it is nothing less than the message of the Orthodox Christian faith that we have preached from the beginning. This—what I am about to tell you—is normal Orthodoxy. If this is the first time you are hearing it, you need to speak to your parents about why they did not tell you about normal Orthodoxy. Normal Orthodoxy declares on this day that nothing less than God himself has enfleshed himself and come among us!
A Roman Catholic theologian by the name of Hans Urs Von Balthasar said that “Christmas is nothing less than the invasion of God into his earth. Christmas is nothing less than the invasion of the eternal into the temporary, the invasion of the perfect into the imperfect, the invasion of the holy into the unholy, the invasion of the whole into the partial. Christmas is nothing less than God invading rebel planet earth to redeem men and women and to make them, to restore them, to the very purpose they were made for in the first place.”
Brothers and sisters, nothing less than this reality: you and I were made to be eternal creatures. We were not made to face death. We were not made to experience death. We were not made to watch our bodies get old and decrepit and waste away. We were not made for that. That is an unnatural state that our Lord Jesus Christ has come into the earth to remedy.
God has taken on flesh so that men might become en-goded. God has become a baby so that we might finally grow up. God has become weak so that he could forever banish our weaknesses. God has made himself poor so that we could escape our spiritual poverty. In a very real sense, Christmas is the celebration of God invading rebel planet earth. And he is invading it, not to punish you, he is invading his world not to condemn you, not to make you feel bad about your sins or feel bad about your mistakes. God is invading his planet to rescue you, to defeat the enemies that are keeping you enslaved to your selfishness and your fear and your small-mindedness about why you were made in the first place. God has come on a divine rescue mission, invading his earth, to destroy sin, death, and the devil, on your behalf.
Christmas is upon us, my precious friends. And while we are going to get caught up in all kinds of sumptuous food, we are going to get caught up in all kinds of gift giving, and we are going to enjoy each other and people are going to take pictures, and folks are going to toast to the New Year, and we are going to do all of this stuff, I want you to not miss the point.
The very source of all this joy, the very source, the very reason of all this celebration, is not the perpetuation of an idea of some kind of jolly moment. It is nothing less than the commemoration of the invasion of earth by God himself, on a mission to accomplish one thing—to set you free. To set you free from the fear of death, to set you free from brokenness, to set you free from those mistakes that you keep making over and over and over again. You know the ones—I hear about them at every confession. God has invaded his planet to set you free from those. God has invaded his planet to rescue you. God has become man so that you might become, finally, what you were created to become: God’s eternal companion.
Do not accept anything less in your life. Don’t you dare do it! Don’t you dare accept any less in your life than what you were made for. You were made for God and him alone. Don’t you dare accept anything less. Do not teach your children to accept anything less. Do not pass on anything less to your children and your grandchildren. You were made for God. And the reason why I know this is because… Christmas. God has invaded his planet to rescue us.
You hear me tell this story every year. I tell it every year because I love it so much. On the day that Christ was born, two angels peered down from heaven into the manger and said to one another, “My! Look how small God has made himself.” Why did God do that, folks? Why did Jesus Christ humble himself to be born in a manger, to be born in a cave? The reason he did that is because that was the only place open for him.
I wonder, do you have room in your heart for the Lord this evening? I wonder, do you realize the extent that God’s love has gone to rescue you? God loves you. That is why Christmas is special. That is why those gifts are wonderful. That is why the food tastes so good. That is why our hearts are filled with joy on this day when we declare, “Kala Christouyenna!” Christ is born! Let us glorify him. Amen.