A Shepherd's Message - Dec. 23, 2014

December 23, 2014

There is a mysterious line towards the end of the Book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 34, about Moses: no greater prophet than he has arisen in Israel because the Lord knew him face to face. And though Moses never literally saw the face of God, something impossible, he did enter into speech with God and was one of the first to know God as a friend.

When one looks at the great works of the Law, of the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, at the entrance into the Promised Land, accomplished by the Lord through Moses, one would think that these various “missions” were what made Moses the greatest prophet. But the Book of Deuteronomy, and also the Book of Exodus to a certain extent, proclaim a further dimension about God and human beings, about an intimacy which neither the Law nor the Promised Land themselves could grant. The figure of Moses points towards a friendship with God Himself, and hints at a new way of being with God. Can God rend the heavens and come down and be with us despite our falling away and running away from all the “good things” that have been showered on us though the Law and the Prophets, through creation and even through human intelligence and learning? The time of the promises in the Old Testament is a time of much stuttering about this issue, but the hope is very poignant and real.

Each year at Christmas we proclaim Scripture readings from three of the four Gospels: Matthew, Luke and John. The first two recount the birth of Christ and the events that surround it, the anticipations, the joys and the anxieties of the major figures, especially Mary and Joseph, who witness this most extraordinary revelation of God’s love. The last evangelist, John, does something slightly different. The beginning or Prologue to his Gospel is a remarkable and long hymn or poem, a stately unfolding of the “career” of the Word, present with God the Father even before Creation and involved with the Father in creation, in law, in revelation, but ultimately most intensely at the zenith of his involvement when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” No longer is there just a prophet to hear God’s word and speak to us of the word, even a Moses. Now God the Word is in the Flesh and one of us. Everything that the “Word of God” will be in the flesh for us, He will be as one who has “seen” the Father, knows Him, and wants to share and communicate that intimacy with us.

The hopes of the Book of Deuteronomy are fulfilled surprisingly in Jesus Christ. The beauty of John’s Gospel shines through the details of the narrated events of Christ’s conception and birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Word makes Himself little and small, abbreviated as it were, so that we can touch Him. The conception and birth of Jesus Christ are the doorways to human friendship with God in a startling new way. The Infant King, Christ Jesus, is a new kind of royalty, one who empties Himself out to fill us, who assumes our human nature in all but sin and graces us with his transforming grace. His conquering of all the hostilities mounted against us allows us to be what Moses sought, friends of God, face to face friends of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us with awe give thanks to the mystery of true friendship with God given us by Christ in the mystery of Christmas. Sing lullaby to Jesus born in an oxen stall, sing lullaby to Jesus the Savior of all.

Merry Christmas! †