Sermon of Bishop Peter Bürcher, Christmas 2010
“God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God”
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
What are we celebrating at Christmas? God is Man among us. The question should be: Who are we then celebrating at the feast of Christmas today? A Baby. God became Man and yet as Man he still remains God! This mystery the Christians try to tell in the “Christmas Crib” and they celebrate it in the Holy Mass. We have prepared ourselves for this during the whole Advent season.
In the last weeks a very interesting film was introduced in more than fifty countries of the world. It is called “Des hommes et des dieux”. This new film by Xavier Beuavais, “Men and gods”, describes the murder of monks in the Algerian Tibéhirine by the islamist GIA in March of 1996. In the prologue a text from the Psalms, 82, 6, appears: “I said, ‘You are “gods”; you are all sons of the Most High”. Yes, God makes us his beloved children. The sign of the presence of God is the Christ-Child. The newborn baby is wide awake and quite open to the observer. He stretches his hands towards us and invites us ... His parents, Mary and Joseph, are quite young people. They want to tell us: Young people can accomplish their life task! They have everything that is “necessary for life”: food, water, clothes, some protection and warmth – and their companionship. But the desire for “more” lets them hope for light, for meaning and for salvation.
Something similar occurs in the scene with the shepherds: This “more” is for the shepherds the voice of God through the Angels in the sky over Betlehem. And his glad message is: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby...”
He who listens to an Angel puts away what he is occupied with at the moment: He listens to the message. The shepherd stops attending to the sheeps, he stands still and listens. The old woman stops eating and preparing food: she receives... The old man ceases to worry about the burdens of life: he rests his tired hands. The very young shepherd for a moment stops making his beloved music and listens to a new song.
He who seeks will find... He who seeks this Baby Jesus will find him... This listening is our faith. The Baby, however, is not alone. He rests in the arms of his mother. The same applies to the Church: Christ and the Church are inseparable. The faith in Christ is inseparable from the faith in his Church. Christ and the Church are one. This appears quite beautifully in the book “Jesus of Nazareth” by our Pope Benedict XVI. It is quite gratifying that this book has recently been translated and published in Icelandic!
With the three men from afar are represented other age and social groups. They are the Magis, the astronomers, who according to tradition are the three kings. They too will find. The number 3 refers to the three continents of the earth that were known at that time: Europe, Africa and Asia. Their representatives were invited and they came to offer their homage.
The three gifts suggests who this small and unimposing Child really is: Gold: the gift for the King of the Kingdom of God, the Lord of Glory. Jesus is King! Myrrh: for the Son of Man, who must die and then will rise from the dead, the doctor who can cure all the ailments of body and soul. Jesus is Man. Incense: for God, for the Priest who connects Heaven and Earth. Jesus is God. Let us finally look once more at the Baby: the wood of the crib is the same kind of wood that is in the cross. God became man in order to cure us, so that we, through his death and resurrection, might open for us the gates of Heaven. We humans are all the sons and daughters of God. God’s light also shines in the star of Christmas, his will to save us. We Christians confess: from the light of God in heaven, God comes to the world as Man, in order to invite us all, with him and through him, to return home. The Christmas star is also the Resurrection Sun of Easter.
As we confess in our Credo, He is begotten of the Father before all time: God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God. And through his grace we have become his children. Therefore, dear Brothers and Sisters, a blessed Christmas! Amen.