NATIVITY OF OUR LORD 2019
To the Reverend Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the West
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots...
The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper’s den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse, who shall stand as a banner to the people; for the Gentiles shall seek Him, and His resting place shall be glorious.
(Isaiah 11:1, 6-10, Read on the Eve of the Nativity)
The Prophet Isaiah speaks of a Rod, a Branch, and a Root from the stem of Jesse. This prophecy points to the coming of the Messiah — our Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah reveals that the lineage of the Messiah would flow through the lines of Kings, Priests and Prophets. Indeed it has, as the Incarnate Son of God, the Son of Mary, is manifested in this world in our celebration of His glorious nativity. The King of Kings offers Himself as the perfect Servant. The Great High Priest offers Himself as the perfect Sacrifice. And the Holy Prophet comes into the world to reveal (and follow) the will of His Father. In that revelation, we are called to be servants, sacrifices, and followers of the Word of God.
But Isaiah also goes on to say that this Coming will radically change the world. Images of the predator and prey co-existing in peace (even lying down together) is the prophecy of the Son of God “taking on the form of a servant” and uniting all of creation in Himself. Isaiah prophecies that the “Gentiles shall seek Him.” The Church is the New Israel and we are the “Gentiles” that seek Him. The redemption of the world begins with the eternal Son of God becoming one of us, enabling us through the Spirit, to become like Him. This radical image of transcendent peace and tranquility is our call, in our celebration, to radically transcend our passions, our temptations and especially our self-will by entering into Him.
Our celebration of the Nativity of Christ is nothing if not radical. While the world has been careening back and forth between obscene consumerism, “Christmas parties,” incessant advertising, and even drunkenness and gluttony, the Church has called us to self-denial and fasting. While the world will put away virtually all signs of the Christmas season literally the day after Christmas, the Church begins a glorious twelve-day celebration of the Lord’s Nativity with our entrance into His Mysteries on the feastday and then a fast-free period. The Christian knows that we celebrate the only true Gift of Christmas: the Incarnate Son of God, who brings all of creation into Himself by becoming one with it. If that is not radical, what is?
As we gather around the new-born Infant, I ask you all to join me in a radical new world of peace inaugurated by the King of Peace and perfect Servant; the Great High Priest and perfect Sacrifice; and the Holy Prophet and perfect Follower.
Christ is Born! Glorify Him!
In the new-born Child,
Archbishop of San Francisco and the West