Mons Yennock's Christmas Homily

Christmas 2014 

O God our God how wonderful is your name in all the Earth. When I look at your heavens the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have established; what is man that you are mindful of him? (ps. 8)

A scientist, looking back on 50 years of space exploration, said that the most valuable "spin-off" of all the benefits of the space program is the reminder that the universe is indeed the handiwork of God. 

As the psalmist put it, "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims his handiwork." (ps. 19:1)

What is it about being in space that seems to spark our innate religious sense? 

The astronaut John Glenn said that as he observed the heavens and the Earth from the windows of discovery he thought to himself: "to look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me impossible. It just strengthens my faith."

Frank Borman was commander of the first space crew to travel beyond the Earth's orbit. Looking down on the Earth from 250,000 miles away, Borman radioed back a message, quoting genesis one: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth." when asked about this later he said, “I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us-that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning."

Astronomers who look through the Hubble space telescope estimate that there are 500 billion galaxies in the universe. Some of these galaxies are millions of light years apart. What we see through the Hubble telescope could be only a tiny speck beyond the endless stretch of space. We wonder how much more will we see when the new James Webb space telescope is launched in 2018?

We live in the galaxy known as the milky way. In our galaxy we can see our own solar system with planets that revolve around our sun. It is estimated that there are 17 million planets the size of our Earth.

When you think about the enormity of the universe you cannot help but wonder about the enormity of God. Einstein said that anyone who could no longer pause to wonder and stand in awe is as good as dead because his eyes are already closed. 

We open our eyes at this holy time.  We open them with wonder and awe as the angels roll back the curtain of the universe.  The king of glory, the lord of the universe is moving into his creation. It is Christmas. The savior has come!  

The lord of the universe who planned and orchestrated 500 billion galaxies and 40 billion suns did not come into the universe unnoticed. From the grandstand at the edge of the universe a vast multitude of the heavenly host was watching. 

Luke the physician writes: “while the shepherds were watching their sheep under the stars by night, the angel of the lord appeared to them…. And suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host was with the angel praising God and saying ‘glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”. (Luke 2:1-14)

In the Book of Revelation John tells us that he saw ten thousand times ten thousand angels ministering before the throne of God. It was from that throne that the multitude of the heavenly host came to announce the coming of someone who was more awesome than the universe he created—Jesus, the son of God. 

The bible tells us that ten thousand angels accompanied Moses on Mt. Sinai. Moses was only a man. Jesus is the son of God. 

Is it not fitting that the lord of the universe should be accompanied by a vast multitude of the heavenly host?

The presence of angels, who appear over 300 times in the bible is an impressive sign that each of us is the object of God’s special love. It is a sign that of all the creatures in the universe man is exceptional. 

Many do not believe in the incarnation of the son of God because they do not believe that man is exceptional. 3000 years ago the psalmist too, wondered about the Exceptionalism of man. The psalmist says: “what is man that you are mindful of him? In the twenty first century we also wonder. 

What is man? Is he more than matter alone? Where did he come from? Why is he here? Where is he going? Does the whole universe exist because of him? Is he so important that God became a man so that man might become God? Is the incarnation the only way that God could lift us up from the pit of sin and evil?

St. Paul said we live by faith not by sight. When we live by sight alone what happens to us? We are prisoners of time and space who live with uncertainty doubt and finality. When we live by faith suddenly the horizons of our mind expand and there are endless possibilities beyond the limits of time and space.

“Once upon a time there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about incarnation which churches proclaim at Christmas. 

He said to his wife: “I’m sorry, but I simply cannot understand why God would become man. It doesn’t make sense to me.

On Christmas eve his wife and children went to church for the midnight service. He said to her: “I’d feel like a hypocrite if I went to church with you. I’ll stay home.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier.  He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another.

He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living room window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window.

“I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “but how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn. It would provide a warm shelter.

He put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. “food will lure them in,” he thought. So he sprinkled bread crumbs on the snow to make a trail into the barn. The birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction. They didn’t go into the barn.

He said to himself: I wonder what I could do to let them know that they can trust me.”

Then he thought: “If only I could be a bird,” and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see and hear and understand.”

Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then all of a sudden he sank to his knees in the snow. Looking up to the sky he whispered: “now I understand. “now I see why you had to do it.” 

This man could not become a bird to save the birds; but God could and did become a man to save men. 

When we live by faith and not by sight we can see what angels see.

Angels flare in the night and awaken sleeping men:  

Your savior has been born! You will find him in a manger! He is holding the universe in his tiny hands.

God has become man that man might become God.

Christians stand up! Hold your heads high! The son of God is one of you. Man know your worth. Christians know your dignity. 

Long time ago in Bethlehem