[HOMILY] Christmas Eve: Divine Hide and Seek
Is it not a massive injustice for God to create us such that our only happiness comes in relationship with him- our creator- and then go and promptly hide himself from us? How is it possible that we can so easily run away from God, how can God let so many people so easily fall into disbelief, lose their faith? God tells us we ought to worship him and only him then he hides himself away and places before our eyes this beautiful world so full of delightful things- things so many of us are tempted to worship!
Yet, is this really the case? Is it how God operates? As if this life is one big game of hide and seek? If we look back to the garden, to that first encounter between God and humanity, we see something else. God walked with us as a father, then we rebelled and hid ourselves from him. And since that time, we have continued to run from him, and he has pursued us to the ends of the earth. Why doesn’t God just show himself again clearly? Philip demands that same thing from Jesus: “Show us the father and it will be enough.” Yet God chooses not to do it, he will not coerce us or overpower us. Instead he chooses to win our love, to entice us back into relationship with him. It is the rule of freedom, not that we run from God, but that we have the right to run from God.
The Old Testament book Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon) was a favorite amongst the Fathers of the Church because it depicts so well, almost uncomfortably, just how passionately God pursues us. It is a love song, one in which the bridegroom works in secret to win his brides heart saying in so many different and creative ways, “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” An aside- for any men looking to win over a respectable woman, there is a storehouse of amazing lines in Song of Songs, I always make sure to point the guys I prep for marriage toward this book. Example- “You are beautiful, my love… your eyes are like doves behind your veil. Your hair is like a flock of goats, moving down the slopes of Gilead. Your teeth are like a flock of shorn ewes come up from washing…” We live in a creative vacuum compared to this guy!
Ok, enough of that. So, we hid ourselves from God, we continue to do so today, and he pursues us- all the while respecting our freedom. What does this have to do with this season of advent, and more with our readings today? Well, first we look to David who the scriptures say was “A man after the Lord’s own heart.” David sang to God, he danced before the Lord, he wanted nothing more than to pursue God.
Yet there he is, sitting in a beautiful palace in the great city of Jerusalem which the Lord gave Israel as Israel’s inheritance, while God remained in a tent, as if still exiled. David turns his heart to God, he sets out to do something beautiful for God.
What ensues is amazing. Don’t misunderstand God’s response to David, he is in not rebuking him or correcting him. David wishes to build a temple for God that will last forever, and instead God establishes a kingdom for David that will last forever. Our God is never outdone in generosity. David sought him, and in seeking he was found by Him, and strove over and again to come to know and love the one who created him, the one who took him from a shepherd boy to the king of Israel.
Now looking ahead to the gospel, we see the angel Gabriel breaking into history to visit a peasant girl in Nazareth and greeting her with a royal proclamation “Hail full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Mary is troubled, as everyone in the scriptures is when they meet an angel. The angel calms her fear and tells her she will bear the Messiah in her womb. As we all know, Mary’s response to all this is her great Fiat, yet how is it possible? How can Mary act with utter freedom in the face of such a mission? Because her whole life has been one prolonged pursuit of God, from the day of her immaculate conception she has sought her bridegroom with relentless fervor.
Now here we are, so close to Christmas, and what does it mean for us 2000 years from the source? We cannot go to the manger as the shepherds could, no angels showed up to announce the coming of Jesus. We cannot hear Jesus preach, heal, and pray to the Father. We do not have the experience of John and the apostles who testify to “what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life.” It seems God intended to come out of hiding for that short time, or at least change his strategy but now he is gone from sight again. What an interesting strategy! Is it easier to believe in a God who comes in a pillar of fire and a storm on a mountaintop or a God who comes as a poor infant in a Bethlehem manger? Yet in his wisdom, is this not the only way God could come among us while also respecting our freedom? Jesus came as a man, fully man, and in every way changed the way we relate to God. As I mentioned, Philip asked Jesus to show him the father- what was Jesus answer? “Whoever has seen me has seen the father.”
God has revealed himself to us in the most incredible and unexpected way in the great feast of Christmas. His pursuit of our hearts brought him out of heaven, brought him into time, and finally and in the most unexpected way of all, it brings him to all of us in the form of bread and wine. What an incredible twist, that we 2000 years down the road have an intimacy with Jesus Christ in the celebration of the Holy Mass that those shepherds who gazed upon him in the manger could not imagine possible.
The Song of Solomon, that great romantic marriage poem, points so beautifully to our becoming one flesh with Jesus in communion. Let us really enter into this Christmas- let us pursue Jesus Christ with our whole heart. Together with Mary, we make our lives one great fiat, let it be done, Lord. Amen.
 John 14:8
 Song of Songs 2:11
 Song of Songs 4:1-3
 1 John 1:1
 John 14:9