Monday, 30 December 2013

Perfect Through Suffering? A Short Homily on the First Sunday After Christmas

Jesus was the Son given us. We celebrate His birth emersed in the rich flow of Christmastide, of which this, the First Sunday after Christmas, is a part. Low Sunday it is sometimes called. Low in attendance, not in meaning or importance. How can attendance ever be low considering what we celebrate each Sunday and who we worship? So, let’s not think of low things. It’s Christmas. It would be better to just talk of the warm afterglow of Christmas. Good company and good food, children and grandchildren at your knee. Glory to God and peace to His people on earth. For many of us that would be true and good. Thanks be to God! We can say what Isaiah wrote in our first reading with full hearts!
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, the praiseworthy acts of the Lord, because of all that the Lord has done for me, and the great favor…that he has shown me according to his mercy, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. (Is 63.7)
And I can be grateful that, in God’s grace and mercy, I have been able to hear the good news about Jesus, to believe that He is who the Bible says He is, and by God’s amazing grace, I have come in from the cold.

Yet, there are low Sundays, and there was and is violence and darkness and loneliness in the world. Christmases marred by grief and loss and poverty and broken relationships. Jesus Himself was in danger very early in life. Herod wanted to destroy him (Mt 2.13) so much so that he unleashed a massacre in Bethlehem. Joseph was instructed to flee to Egypt (Mt 2.14). Thankfully, he listened and obeyed, just as he did when he was instructed to keep pregnant Mary as his wife.

What’s all that about?
It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. (Heb 2.10)
Fitting? Perfect through sufferings? How does that work?

Do sufferings make Christmas perfect? On one level, yes. What would Christmas, or Easter for that matter, be without The Cross? But were the grieving mothers of those little boys killed in Bethlehem made perfect in their suffering? Are the mothers and fathers grieving over children killed in suicide bombings in the middle east made perfect in their suffering today? What about the mothers and fathers of the missing and murdered women, or men, in Canada today? No. Jesus was The One made perfect through sufferings so “he is able to help those who are being tested” (Heb 2.18) by suffering and tragedy. He shared our flesh and blood (Heb 2.14), so that “through death (his death, not the deaths of the baby boys or the bomb victims or the women) he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those (that’s you and me) who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.”

In his love and pity, our God and Father, has provided us with a perfect Saviour, Jesus, and has redeemed us. He lifts us up and carries us still (Is 63.9) no matter how low our Sundays, our fortunes or our spirits.