Angels, Shepherds, Mangers, O MY!

Christmas Day Homily Year C 2021

O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

God of fear, God of the night, God of the Expectation,

You visited the angels in the night with songs and sights of joy.

In all of our nights, turn us towards hope, because hope might just keep us alive. Amen[i]


We have lived through the night and here we are on this Christmas morning.

We began with the hymn, Oh Come All ye Faithful!

And truly ye faithful are here, a smaller crowd than last night and yet no less faithful, indeed.

Oh come let us adore him, oh come let us adore him. Christ the Lord.

It’s a wonderous and mysterious thing we celebrate each year, this mighty king born in a manger with the most unique visitors showing up to be amazed and in awe and wonder.

A wonderous pregnancy, no room in the inn, and a band of angels singing messages to the community tending sheep.

And the Angel said, “Do not be afraid, for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all people.” In the middle of the night, angels, shepherds, mangers, good news.

Do not be afraid is the most commonly used greeting by Angels….. the phrase is used over 365 times. To me, this means there was a lot to be afraid of in those times.

Fear of death, fear of punishment, shame, the government, illness.

We live in similar times of fear, fear of death, illness, economics, daily life and choices.

And yet in the midst of this darkest of nights, the Angels appear and say to the shepherds- do not be afraid. These same words Gabriel said to Mary and to Joseph. “Do not be afraid….” This birth is indeed good news for all the world.

In the midst of these fears there is joy.

God is with us. Emmanuel.

God did not immediately rid the world of fear.

Rather, God transformed that fear to showing the world how one can live in the midst and not give in to fear. God bore God’s love for the world in this tiny baby we celebrate each year as that baby grew into a man, grew into a movement, grew into the call to each of us to live in the same way that God was born to us, each year- starting small and transforming one heart at a time.

God, in the midst of a manger, born amongst us, changed the world through love.

Born in the midst of the messiness of life on earth, these anxious times, God came near and dwelt amongst us.

God is with us and that gives joy and hope.

God with us makes Angels sing, shepherds hustle their flocks to the manger, and a couple who were bewildered by their first born, be amazed at those who arrived as their child was more than their child, their child was a gift of love for the whole world.

I wonder what the shepherds said as they left the manger, as they tried to retell the story of their evening to those who were not there.

I wonder how their faces might have shone with the deep joy of being invited to “Oh come all ye faithful” after so many times of not being invited or otherwise occupied with duties.

I wonder the joy the angels felt in being part of the story that night of being able to sing and share such exciting news and show the way to the manger, the beams of light shining from their fingers and toes.

Oh come all ye faithful, come and adore him, Christ the lord.

The Christmas Carol itself is a beautiful collaboration of many translators and theologians. Rather than being written in one sitting by one composer. The latin words and music were date back to 1743 written by John Francis Wade, but he is not the only composer. So inspired by this work, the Fredrerick Oakley added three verses, and the Frenchman Abbé Etienne Jean François Borderies  added 2 more verses. The lyrics place you in the role of shepherds who rushed to see the christ child and remind us of all the faithful ahead of us who have come to adore the newborn in the manger.

The fifth verse: Child, for us sinners poor and in the manger,
Fain we embrace thee, with awe and love: Who would not love thee,
loving us so dearly?[ii]
Reminds us of the love and embrace God has given us on this holy day.

Wherever you might see yourself in the story, the one who needs the reminder to not be afraid, the one who needs to be invited, the one who is reminded that God is right here with us, know that on this Christmas morning- new beginnings still occur and even in the darkest nights, we are turned towards hope, because hope will keep us alive. Amen

Angels, Shepherds, Mangers, Oh MY!

[i] Daily Prayer by Padraig O Tuima Canterbury Press 2017, page 9


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