St. Silouan the Athonite Mission Parish

Sermons

Christmas 2012
by Fr Roberto Ubertino 

Every year as we celebrate Christmas we can't but observe that the world is not at peace, that more than ever our anger is turned towards one another. The violence grows with each passing day. But something even more troubling has taken hold of mankind. The violence, death and destruction have been identified with God. It is as if God was going around punishing, crushing, and killing. Some say God created man in the image of God and man returned the favour! Some reject the belief in God and choose rather to believe only in humans, but in turn have great difficulty loving those humans who believe in God. In a way, we are all trapped by something greater than ourselves that is fast choking our human race. The imagined religious idea that God is out to get you and strangle you or the strangle hold of asphyxiation in a society like ours that lacks any sense and place for transcendence/?? the transcendent.

 

No one seems to be free from this" diabolical logic". Only a few religious voices dare to question the religiously sanctioned violence. Patriarch Bartholomeos' prophetic words tried to warn the churches ... but then even his brother bishops find it irresistible to bless nuclear arsenals

 

So who is God? Can we really believe in this God professed by more and more people, many claiming to speak in the name of God?

 

We want our God to be tough, strong, our god and not their god, always in the right ready to eliminate our enemies. The God of modern man wants to impose His will on humanity and will not stop at anyone or anything until He does. And yet in a dark cave, outside of the social, military, religious sphere of the big city, a poor woman gives birth to a little baby, she gives birth in utter squalor, poverty, powerlessness and this baby is God.

 

God not above us, but below us, not the God of the bomb but of the open hands of a powerless infant, A God who cries out all the pain and suffering of all His enemies, of all mankind... in a crib and we can do whatever we want to Him.

 

But from His birth onward, there can be no more doubt about who the real God is. All out theories, military operations, economic machines, our fears, our righteousness, our so-called divine and human laws, all our political boundaries, plays and trappings, none, absolutely none, can claim to be what this child is. More than ever, we Orthodox Christians need to witness to this one truth, that there is only one real God, and that God is born of a Virgin, that God is powerless, self emptying, vulnerable, poor, below us. More than ever, we must stop hiding behind fancy speech, theories, speculations, and walk the path of humility, of self-emptying love in the midst of those who kill in the name of God. The Incarnation calls us to dare to embrace in love even those who hate us. |We must say it, as clearly as possible, that, in God there is absolutely no competition, it's not about who is stronger, better. Love does not need our destruction powers to be defended.

 

Perhaps we can, as Father Alexander Men begs to live the beginning of Christianity. The world's gods have to get tough; they have armies and pass legislations so that their god can win. But in the cave of Bethlehem, God always wins, on the cross God always wins, love always wins. That is why there cannot be absolutely no other Gods but Jesus born of the Virgin in the city of Bethlehem.


Our parish continues to welcome home people who come seeking a place to belong, spiritually and humanly. Let us continue to be such a place.


Two Sundays before Christmas, we hear in church the long reading of names. The Gospel of Matthew was originally written for Jewish converts to the faith. The long list of names called the Genealogy of Christ emphasizes that Jesus' birth is from below, one with us, and at the same time from the Father. Therefore His birth renews human nature. This renewal, the restoration of disfigured humanity embraces all humanity from the very beginning of time. The Genealogy includes also those who are outside of the chosen Hebrew people. In the genealogy even the names of sinners are included.

 

Why? Man had stopped looking up, seeking the face of the One in whose image and likeness they had been created. What was he to do? So God invented this way to reach us, to touch us. He comes down to us, He gets below us so that now we can't miss Him and we can't use the excuse that He is too high for us to reach.

 

We think, or imagine, this event as purely a past event, an historical event that happened and now we remember in the distant past. But God seeks to become human all the time; the very moment that created the universe, that moves him freely out of himself in creating, also moves God, out of love, not only to create man but to become man.

 

There is this profound attraction between God and man, man who is created as image and likeness of God is drawn to God and God is drawn towards man.

 

This union of God and man is lived in the greatest tragedy of human history because ultimately the image rejects and kills its own creator. And yet through the Resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit God continues and wills in each person until the end of time to be born. Our lives can only be understood in this dynamic, the Theotokos the most perfect and fulfilled of human beings. How can we ever doubt that He will abandon us? How can we ever believe that some are forever rejected by Him, who forever seeks to be incarnate in man so that man might become God?

 

What a beautiful Gospel we heard this morning! Through the readings of those names that stretched for generations back to the beginning of history God claimed all our history, all our generations, all our hopes and dreams and our sufferings and brokenness. Jesus born of the Virgin, conceived by the Holy Spirit, Son of the eternal Father, Creator of all that exists is equally truly one with us, one of us. Not a fairly tale, or a feel-good story, but truly God made man. He is not ashamed to call us His own – He is not ashamed to be our God.

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