Readings: Isaiah 9:1-7; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
We have probably all had the experience of purchasing–or receiving–some sophisticated gadget or other and then needed to diligently consult the instruction manual in order to use it. However, for some devices or appliances an instruction manual is not sufficient and, instead, requires an actual expert to come in person to instruct us in its use–the recent purchase of our tractor was a case in point. Although it might seem a tad crass to use this analogy, the great feast we celebrate tonight involves someone coming in person to instruct us in the complex yet glorious task of becoming divine while remaining human! We were, of course, well on that road when our first parents spoiled it all by disobeying what were actually rather a simple set of instructions!
Correcting their error and poor judgment has taken significantly longer than one would think–four thousand years being one estimation. During this long time God repeatedly sent instructions on redressing the wrong done and sent many a representative bearing these instructions in what we now call the Old Testament. These efforts met with limited success and few were the people who actually seemed to fully understand and follow God’s instructions and find their way back to him and to paradise–Enoch and Elijah being two notable examples.
And yet in some mysterious way this was all foreseen and prepared for by God who from all eternity knew that instructions–no matter how clear and detailed–would never suffice in restoring his wondrous creation first manifested in Adam and Eve. Instead, that set of instructions would have to be written in the flesh of his beloved and only-begotten Son who would be a living instruction and whose very being would point the way back to the Father from whom humanity strayed in their ignorance and foolish pride. And so he would ask Philip, have I been with you so long and still you do not know me? To see me is to see the Father.
We, of course, seem to be at something of a disadvantage: Philip and the other disciples had the great privilege of seeing Jesus in the flesh and could observe this living instruction sent by the Father. We seem to be in no better position than those living prior to Christ’s birth for we seem to be back to following written instructions encapsulated in the Gospels and in other New Testament writings. However, this is only apparent: by his incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension, our human nature has been taken up into divinity allowing us to be united as never before with the one in whose image we have been created.
Accordingly, our instructor and teacher no longer guides us as someone out there, but rather as someone within us and whose teaching and instructing gradually transforms our minds and hearts so that we are privileged to assume his perspective and, as it were, see with his eyes and speak with his voice. Thus we, in our turn, are entrusted with becoming living instructions for other seeking the Truth–the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. For although we are steadily being instructed in the art of becoming divine, we are also being schooled in the art of becoming fully human and allowing humanity to be taken up in the God-Man Jesus Christ so as to share in his divinity.
This is the true joy of our Savior’s birth for although we once strayed and wandered far from our heavenly home, we have not been abandoned. The One who came among us was sent to lead us back home and in that very journey homewards we become everything we were created to be. So let us rejoice and in coming forward to receive our Master and Guide in the Eucharist, take up that journey with renewed fervor, determination, and hope.