In Octava Nativitatis Domini

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →

LESSON: The Crib and the Cross go together

With our focus centred on the birth of Christ, the beautiful and serene image of the crèche, and the celebrations with family and friends, we often overlook the fact, that the Octave of Christmas is a rather bloody period in the Church’s calendar.
The very day after Christmas, we recall the very first martyr for the faith, St. Stephen, who was brutally stoned to death. Two days later, we commemorate the slaughter of countless innocent children. Then, two days after that, we honour a bishop murdered in his own cathedral.
Finally, we come to today, the octave day of Christmas, and once again we commemorate bloodshed. Today, in fulfillment of the Old Law, given to Abraham, the Blood of Christ was shed for the first time.
All of this points to one very important truth, we cannot truly understand the Incarnation without the Passion. In fact, everything about the birth of Our Lord points to the culmination of Our Lord’s earthly mission on the Cross, as God, the Divine Author, provides us with a foreshadowing of what is to come.
If we look closely, we can see numerous elements of the Nativity point directly to the Passion. The Christ Child is laid in a wooden manger, alluding directly to the wood of the Cross, not to mention the Eucharistic Sacrifice.
While we often depict the Nativity in a stable, most scholars believe it was actually a cave, just like the rock tomb in which His body will lie. While the Holy Family were not without means, nevertheless, on that night they had no room or even a bed on which to lie, just as Our Lord would be stripped of everything on the Cross.
At the birth of the Holy Child, he was not surrounded by family and friends as one might expect, his only companions were the poor shepherds. Just as he would be abandoned by all but a handful of followers at His crucifixion.
The Incarnation and Nativity of Our Lord is a beautiful mystery worthy of our contemplation, but it is an incomplete mystery without the Cross.

ILLUSTRATION: Becket’s Last Christmas

St. Thomas Becket, was a nobleman born in England in 1119. Due to some financial misfortunes suffered by his father, he was forced to earn a living as a clerk to the archbishop. However, because of his efficiency in his various tasks he was recommended for the vacant position of Lord Chancellor in 1155, the most powerful position in the country after the King.
At that time there was a great deal of conflict between the bishops and the king regarding the rights and independence of the Church, and King Henry had Thomas named Archbishop of Canterbury in 1162, in hopes that his friend and collaborator would take the side of the monarchy.
Unfortunately for King Henry, following his ordination, an almost miraculous transformation came over Thomas, he began living a rigorous ascetical life, and began vigorously defending the rights of the Church. This finally led, on December 29th, 1170 to his being martyred during Vespers in the Cathedral by several noblemen.
Four days before his death, he preached what would be his final Christmas homily, in which he spoke about the crib and the cross, saying:
“[W]henever Mass is said, we re-enact the passion and death of Our Lord. And on this Christmas Day, we do this in celebration of his birth, so that at the same moment we rejoice in his coming for the salvation of men, we offer again to God his body and blood in sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.
It was in this same night that has just passed that a multitude of the heavenly host appeared before the shepherds at Bethlehem, saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will.'
At this time of year we celebrate at the same time the birth of Our Lord and his passion and death upon the cross.
Beloved, as the world sees it, this is to behave in a strange fashion. For who in the world will both mourn and rejoice at once and for the same reason? For either joy will be overcome by mourning, or mourning will be cast out by joy.
So it is only in these our Christmas Mysteries that we can rejoice and mourn at once for the same reason.”
The crib and the cross are two of the great mysteries of our salvation, but we cannot truly understand one without the other.

APPLICATION: Salvation requires sacrifice

Today, as we continue to marvel at the birth of Christ, we recall the first shedding of the His blood, a foreshadowing of His salvific death on the Cross.
The birth of a child is something normally celebrated. But this is no ordinary Child, because he makes demands on our lives and requires a response. While still in his infancy, Our Lord is proclaimed a salvific “light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel,” and thus “a sign that will be contradicted” (Lk. 2:32, 34).
And so see we that the crib cannot be separated from the Cross, his Sacrifice of Calvary, the pinnacle of Our Lord’s earthly ministry. As the great Archbishop Fulton Sheen was fond of saying, “You and I come into the world to live. . . . Christ, the Son of God, did not come into this world to LIVE. He came into it to DIE”.
When we invite Christ into our lives, when he becomes incarnate in our soul, we have to remember that every incarnation leads to a crucifixion. If we’re looking for him to remain the little baby, he won’t. If we’re looking for him to do for us, without making demands on us in return, he won’t. The baby in the crib grows up, and expects us to do the same in our life of faith.
Nevertheless, wherever Christ calls us to go, he has already gone before us, he has prepared the way, and has shown us that the Cross does not lead to death, but to life.
Therefore, when Jesus tells us that we too must similarly die to ourselves and carry our own cross (Lk. 9:23-24), it is a “hard saying” (Jn. 6:60). But given that Christ has “been there/done that” through his Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, we can be sure that the love he gives will cast out all fear in perfecting us (1 Jn. 4:18).
In a few moments, Christ will become incarnate for us on the altar, in the Holy Eucharist, and he will offer the sacrifice of the Cross before us as well. When we receive Our Lord in Holy Communion today, let us be grateful not only for allowing us to share in His Incarnation, but for allowing us to share in His Sacrifice, through which we can gain eternal life.
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more