Merry Christmas! This afternoon we heard those ancient and beautiful words from the Prophet Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing,…. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
Oh yes, that wonderful, glorious, happy Day of Midian. ¿¿What the heck is the day of Midian???
Well, the Day of Midian has to do with a battle. More than 1,000 years before Christ, even before King David, so more than 3,000 years ago, Midian was a neighboring Kingdom of the Israelites. The Midianites were nomads. And they were bullies. They would swoop in on their camels, beat up the Israelites, take their crops, steal their sheep and goats, make fun of their God, and generally make the Israelite’s life miserable. The Israelites cried out to God in their suffering, and God responded. God raised up a leader, a hero, a judge. A guy by the Name of GIDEON. Gideon was reluctant to play the hero. He took some convincing, but finally agreed to lead the people. Gideon sent out the call to arms and raised a large army.
Gideon had 36,000 men. For the time a BIG military force. With this huge army Gideon knew he could whip the Medianites and kick their behinds. He was all set to go when God called him and says, “Wait a minute. You have too many men. If you win with this large army you will think you did it, but I am going to do it. This is my show.” So God tells Gideon to tell the army, “anyone afraid, go home”. 26,000 guys pick up and leave. They could see this was not going to be any picnic.
So only 10,000 left. But Gideon thinks he still has enough to win the battle. God calls Gideon again. Guess what? “You still got too many guys. If you win the battle with this army you will think you did it. You will take the credit. But I - GOD - will provide the victory.” So God tells Gideon to take the army down to the stream to drink. Those who kneel down to drink the water, send home. Those who scoop up the water and drink standing, keep. Only 300 are left. BUT with these 300 Gideon wins the victory. Not only does he beat the Midianites, he whips them thoroughly. Kicks their keesters. It is a great story, and you can read it all in the Book of Judges, chapters 6 through 8.
Now the point about the Day of Midian is not only that it is a great victory for the Israelites, but more importantly is that God wins the victory. This is God’s doing, not Gideon’s, not the Israelites, not mankind’s, not humanity’s doing, but God’s.
And that is what we are celebrating here tonight. As on the Day of Midian, God does the heavy lifting at Christmas. God will provide the victory. But this time the victory is not over Midian, or any other earthly kingdom or country, but over the much more insidious enemy, over sin.
As St Paul tells us in the second reading tonight: “Beloved, The grace of God has appeared, saving all ...” This is God’s doing, God’s free gift, God’s grace.
Look at the Christmas story. Next to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus this is the most important event in all history. But this is not the work of the EMPEROR. Caesar is in far off Rome, issuing decrees, totally unconcerned and unaware of what is happening on that momentous first Christmas night. This is not the work of any human government, or the U.N. or any political party, no N.G.O nor any human power. NO HUMAN POWER does this.
There is no Roman LEGION involved in accomplishing the First Christmas. No military power, no army, no bombs or guns or swords or drones flying over head, no ICBMs or stealth bombers or submarines or any weapons at all involved in this victory. NO MILITARY POWER does this.
There is no GOLD, no silver, no money, no high finance, no banks, no riches involved in this wonder. Not a single financial consultant, investment banker or hedge fund manager in the whole story! Rather there are a couple of poor peasants who don’t even have the money to get into a motel, and a few lowly shepherds. NO WEALTH does this.
There is no SCIENCE, no academics, no professors, no scholarly bodies, no universities, no peer reviewed journals, no high-tech, no whiz-bang gadgetry involved in this victory. Nothing on the internet, nothing in the cloud, no iPads or smart phones. Just a donkey and natural child-birth. Pretty low tech. NO TECHNOLOGY or SCIENCE does this.
None of the things that we humans pride ourselves on are involved in this accomplishment: no political power, no military might, no economic power, no scientific or technical achievement. None of that stuff.
This is all God’s doing. A baby is born, and EVERYTHING is changed. The darkness is over. The long reign of sin is ended. Salvation and the fullness of life will be offered to all. And it is all God’s doing. Because God loves us. What there is in this story is lots and lots of LOVE.
For the birth of the Christ child is “the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.”
Now that is quite an accomplishment! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!