The following homily was preached on January 2, 2022, being the Second Sunday after Christmas Day, at the 10:30am Rite I Eucharist at Saint Peter’s Episcopal Church in Talladega, Alabama.
Reading: Jer. 31:7-14; Ps. 84:1-8; Eph. 1:3-6, 15-19a; Matt. 2:13-15, 19-23
Collect: O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
“I do not cease…remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him…”—Ephesians 1:16-17
In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.
I was privileged on the Fourth Sunday of Advent to be the guest preacher at the main Eucharist at Grace and Saint Peter’s Church in Baltimore, the Diocese of Maryland’s Anglo-Catholic parish. At the Rector’s invitation, I stayed for the parish’s Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols later that afternoon. As we were singing the final stanza of the closing hymn “O Come All Ye Faithful,” the organist did something I would describe musically evangelistic. Being in the key of G-major, when we came to the lyrics “Word of the Father,” the organist “put the pedal to the metal” on the word “Word,” playing a B half-diminished chord at such a high volume that one could feel the windows rattle and the sound reflect off them. It was a good painting of the text.
I describe this musical moment as evangelistic because of what the Incarnation means for the world. We heard John say last week that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). That B half-diminished chord played at fortissimo level conveyed how God fully broke into our time, becoming human in Jesus and changing the course of history. What we celebrate throughout these Twelve Days of Christmas is God having made good on His promise; in Jesus He has come to ransom, heal, restore, and forgive us.
It is not often we have a “Second Sunday after Christmas Day.” As the secular world has finished its Christmas celebration, this “extra” Sunday of our liturgical celebration offers us another opportunity to reflect on the good news that is the Incarnation. The birth of Jesus has rendered all of God’s past promises confirmed in the present and be confirmation of what He will do in the future. And we could use some good news these days.
What further makes the Incarnation special is how history itself, apart from the Bible and other Christian sources, attest to the existence of Jesus. And what history has shown is that those who have heeded His message were, as was Mary, bearers of God’s Word into our world. Though the world still has problems, because of the Incarnation of Jesus, the places of those throughout history who have received Christ and believed in His Name have in ways experienced change that made them better places from what they once were. The last words of Blessed Mary in Holy Scripture, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5), speak to their faith.
Faith is the result of being drawn to Jesus. By being drawn to Jesus, we feel ourselves becoming more and more transformed by God’s Word. This is the Holy Spirit’s doing, our openness to truth enabling us to see Jesus as the Savior from whom the fullness of all things dwell. With “the eyes of your hearts enlightened,” says Paul, “you may know what is the hope to which [God] has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18).
Hence, on this Second Sunday after Christmas Day, God is drawing us to His Only Begotten Son. Though only a little Child, in Jesus can be seen God’s plan for our redemption. The death this unblemished Child will die will be the fulfillment of God’s predestined plan for our adoption as His children. The Incarnation is God’s extension to us all an invitation to be part of His eternal Kingdom. It makes God’s love not only felt but real and seen. We are being drawn to God because of how He has made the initiative to show His love for us.
Because God has done what He said he would do, we can long for His heavenly courts and joyfully sing to Him. The Incarnation lets us know that the troubles we have will not be the end. Just like Jeremiah prophesied to the faithful remnant of God’s people who survived the Babylonian Exile, God in Jesus will deliver us from the various captivities of this age. He has come to offer His grace to us, irrespective of who we are, where we come from, and our position in this world. God will deliver all who seek refuge in Him. In Christ God will bring us from our past to a more glorious future.
And just as Herod sought to kill the Child Jesus, we ourselves have faced or will face opposition for challenging and going against the world’s ways. Yet, the very fact we are here in a Eucharistic celebration of Him who not only has been born but has died, risen, ascended, and will come again in accordance with His own command is proof that God will deliver us from evil as He did His Son. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Because of the Incarnation of Jesus, we can have courage to trust in and be part of God’s divine plan.
There we see the good news of this second Christmas Sunday. By becoming human, God in the Person of Jesus has entered our journey. “He himself [has] partook of the same things, that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15). If someone tells you or if you yourself think that God does not understand or care about your struggles, in plain language, that just is not true. God does know about your struggles. It is because He cares about them and for you that He has come. “For because [Jesus] Himself has suffered…He is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Jesus is here so that your struggles will not have the final say.
To quote the old-timey hymn, “To be happy in Jesus is to trust and obey.” For those still searching for the truth, I pray that you will have courage to receive the infant Christ. To receive the Lord Jesus is to receive joy and to journey with Him into a more blessed eternal future. Yet, faith requires obedience. And what does the Lord require? “To do justice…to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Love of God and our neighbor as we love ourselves and obedience of His Word are the keys to a joyful life. Will you let this Holy Child take you to a more glorious future? I pray that you will.
I pray the words of Paul, that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him…” Let us all again together hear the message of the Angels and hear and heed in Scripture the story of God’s loving purpose made known to us by His holy Child Jesus.
In the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Amen.
 Flavius Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews (c. A.D. 93-94) Book XX, Chapter 9, 1 and Publius Cornelius Tacitus’s Annals (c. A.D. 116), Book XV, Chapter 44 are two early non-Christian historical sources that attest to Jesus’ existence.
 Psalm 84:2: “My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.”
 Cf. the Bidding Prayer from the Christmas Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols.