Christmas Homily/Message Fr. John Barry 12 25 2019
*Extended version-homily delivered was 9-10 minute version
Merry Christmas to you, friends in Resurrection Parish, and guests here with us—welcome!
There are many vivid and descriptive words and expressions of the Christmas Mystery and of Christ Jesus. One of the best is the word I give for your Christmas meditation: BEHOLD!
Behold! The word and exclamation point with it says a lot in just six-letter word with punctuation mark.
From a wonderful Christmas card, with magi arriving and a radiant star shining the Way to Mary and Joseph holding the Holy Child: it says “Behold Him come. “ I take that greeting and make it simply: Behold! The message really says: Look Closely and with Hope! As in, See Him Whom all the world needs so much—the Savior, Jesus. As in, Behold, God comes to the earth, in such surprise! Behold, a baby, Who is Emmanuel, God with us! As in, Behold, God has much more in store via Jesus, in the ongoing present and future for us.
The word “behold” isn’t used much secularly. I remember watching some magic shows years ago and the magician would sometimes utter “behold!” (and they would pull a rabbit figure out of the hat or something)—but this was just trickery. If you knew the way of the trick, then it was no big deal at all. But what IS a big deal is to Behold of what God does and of what He reveals to us and promises us. Christmas is a beholding.
Behold: It IS a word of fascination. Sometimes, too, it has been used of a special celestial sighting, of seeing something extraordinary up in the night sky, like in a major comet, as Halley was in 1910, or back in 1835. It fascinated, and got much more than a wow or an awesome for it. Yet Halley’s Comet is not back for a big beholding again until 2061 and then not to 2134—so it’s a long wait for a big comet sighting like that.
The word is derived from the Old English bihalden, from bi– ‘thoroughly’ + haldan ‘to hold’. In the Old Germanic languages this “behold” word meant “maintain” or perhaps, “keep on looking upon.” Now in the context of Jesus Christ coming, the word was used by Jesus forerunner prophet, John. He shouts: “Behold the Lamb of God!” He points the Savior out. We use John the Baptist’s words in the announcement during Mass, of our coming to experience Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world!” We proclaim The Lord Present in a Eucharist-Coming, in His Gift of Mercy, in His bringing Himself close to His people. It is a great and most correct use of the word “Behold.”
Turning our attention to the First Christmas, Mary and Joseph, and other guests, would see the Christ Child, and I can think of how much fascination they did have to behold The LORD come, even in the wonder of a babe now in their care, and come to be born in Bethlehem to fulfill the ancient prophecies and promises. They would have kept on looking on Him in wonder. In the artwork of the Christmas card to inspire this homily them, Mary and Joseph are long-gazing on Baby Jesus, with the Magi arriving to prostrate before Him, to adore, and then offer Him gifts fit for a king. These sojourners and seekers to the new born King were first fascinated by a star sign for him. It led them to see The One of Whom was proclaimed even by celestial signs. In Advent week 2, we read from Numbers 24 of a prophecy of a star sign for the Anointed One, the One of Jacob’s line. It indicated that the Lord of Light would come down from Heaven to be among us as a person in Israel. (This is Jesus, of course.)
Behold seems to be the word hidden in the Lord Jesus’ message as He first began His ministry in Galilee: “Come and See,” said He. Unscramble it, and it’s Him saying: Behold, The “I AM” is to noticed. Stay along with Me for a closer look. Join along with Me on the journey. Be my disciple. Learn. Behold.
I love the apostle and evangelist John and His Good News of the Word among us, the Word made flesh, the Word God Who Pre-Existed as a Person in the heavens. His Christmas story is cosmic. It, too, is all about a revealing to behold. In his epistle he writes that much is revealed in Jesus and much more is to come. In 1 John 3, he tells: “Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we might be called the children of God. Yet so we are. (The world misses this, yet,) beloved, we are God’s children now; and what we shall fully be has not yet been revealed… for we shall behold Him as He is (in Glory.)” John writes this to encourage the flock to believe deeply, and to have sure hope in God, and to live an honest way in Jesus. The same St. John writes on in Revelation, as in its opening chapter, of the Second Coming: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him—…all the tribes of the earth (!) So shall it be! Amen.”
Of our Catholic Faith, at Christmas, and in year ‘round, it is so much about the manifestation of God among us in Christ, to behold Him come, and to await in hope of the Glory to come in Him to His own.
I just want you to hear this word over and over tonight (today): Behold!
In Christmas, though, we have a reason to look and be fascinated in the now. Behold the Child! Behold the One Whom we proclaim as Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of the world. Behold He came on one day in history, as we mark for December 25th. He came among us, as a child, first, at Bethlehem. Christ’ Mass of Nativity now is our thanksgiving feast of this Gift of a Person come to save us. The special phrase is prayed at the altar today/tonight: “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Happy are those who are called to His (wedding) Supper.” Christ’ Mass is a beholding moment.
At the prayer to the wedding supper of The Lamb, all the congregants and myself respond with joy, saying: “…Only say the Word, and my soul shall be healed. “ Meaning, “Only speak it, Lord, Your Word, as our way into Your feast. Speak it so for me, for I acknowledge that all healing and grace does ultimately come from You, God. And you packaged it so beautifully in the Christmas Present of Jesus. May I open up to this wonder of You come in The Son. By the help of Your Spirit, may I see, may I behold?!
In the Bible, the word “behold” is usually the translation of the Hebrew word הנה (hinneh, Strong’s #2009) in the Old Testament, and the Greek word ιδου (idou, Strong’s #2400) in the New Testament. Both the Hebrew and Greek words mean “look” or “see” but not so in any ho-hum common way, yet still in a human way, as one to be able to see what one sees, and to sense what one senses. God wants us to begin to see or notice Him, and get extra sensory notice of Him near us, even if not yet in the Glorious Gaze, but in the stages of beholding Christ, as we do in our Catholic Faith.
We have great Christmas Scriptures about beholding, as in Isaiah 7:14 as it tells forth: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” In Luke 2:10-11, the angelic words herald: “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy… For unto you is born (is come) this day… a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
To see the Lord at the original Christmas was the greatest sight of human history—of God’s arriving, in Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace, in Jesus. God enabled the people of our world to now have a way to meet Him, the Mediator between Heaven and earth, One with us both in His divinity and humanity–in Jesus. He is still doing so, by the way, inviting us, revealing to us, leading us, to everlasting promise, as I remind you of His calling, to “come and see.” To behold.
To see Him now in the Light of Faith, and to behold Him in Eucharist, on this day/night is the happy feast of Christmas for us Catholics.. May we believe in signs for our beholding God, in Christ. I finish the homily with four “behold” fireworks Christmas prophecy for you, friends.
Behold the Lord is come for you. Jesus Christ. He comes to heal you. In Matthew 9:2, a man of palsy is healed and forgiven. “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed,: and, Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick one; Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven of you.” Beloved, be that person. Be healed. Behold your Healer—Jesus.
Behold the Lord is come for you. Jesus Christ. He comes to ask you to open up, or to open up more. To Laodicea, a church of St. John, He told them of a vision: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any one hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to them, and will sup with them, and they with me.” Of course, that’s Revelations 3:20. It’s the open-up-to-Me verse of Our Lord. Hear it clearly today/tonight.
Behold the Lord is come for you. Jesus Christ. He comes to say He sees a good work in you. In His pre-existence as the Son Eternal God, in Genesis 1:29, He gives His overview: “And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” So, we have God looking intently at us, and you, with love, in that line. You can be good, as meant to be in your creation, or you can choose to be too much in love with your own self and your sins. What will it be? For in Noah’s time, the Lord spoke and summed up things in Genesis 6:12 with ” behold, the creation and its own was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his/her way upon the earth.” But God showed a sign, again, after The Flood, Genesis 8:11 that “the Dove came to Noah at eventide; and behold, in her beak was an olive-leaf plucked off.” Here describes God the Son’s peaceful covenant resolution again made to a fallen world. Get into a covenant love with God like Noah and take the olive branch from God. [I have a book for people to read on that topic of covenant for this next month: It’s Scott Hahn’s “A Father Who Keeps His Promises.” Look on the Commons Area bulletin board for info.] Behold the Lord is come for you. Jesus Christ. There is an eternal Christmas coming for believers, for the ultimate Gift of being with God forever, being in His kingdom, and being with others in perfect love and happiness. Renew your quest for it. Isaiah 25 prophesizes of it: “And it shall be said in that day, behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, and He will save us: this is The Lord, the Anointed, we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” Merry Christmas 2019, and may all your Christmases be bright in His company. Jesus Christ. Amen.
In Christ’s Service, Fr. John firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to a song on the topic https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFEK68ncZ7o