2016-12-25 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Christmas Homily. AUDIO RECORDING INCLUDED.
Homily. Sunday, December 25, 2016. Father François Beyrouti.
The Christmas season extends to the feast of the Theophany, the baptism of Jesus, on January 6.
During this time of year, there are many ways to greet each. The traditional way during the Divine Liturgy is “Christ is born. Glorify Him.”
Another popular greeting is “Merry Christmas.” But what does “merry” mean? When you think of the word “merry” what do you think of? You probably think of someone smiling or laughing. Although we should smile and laugh during this time of year, there is more to Christmas than laughing, smiling, eating, drinking, and exchanging gifts. So Merry Christmas is a wonderful way to greet each other but does not fully express what we are celebrating.
The Arabic phrase “Milad Majeed” (glorious birth) is richer in meaning because it reminds us that there is something glorious in the birth of Jesus.
These are great greetings, but I would like to focus on the Greek Christmas greeting “kala Christougenna” (καλά Χριστούγεννα) which literally means “happy” or even “beautiful” birth. It is interesting that in Greek “kala” (καλά) can mean either good or beautiful. For example, the English word “kaleidoscope” comes from this Greek word and refers to something beautiful.
In John 10:14-15, Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me,  as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Since the word “kala” (καλά) can mean either good or beautiful we can read Jesus’ words as either “I am the good shepherd” or “I am the beautiful shepherd.”
This is an important distinction because we often overlook the importance and power of words. Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, which is much more than good in a vague way. If we are not specific we can misinterpret words.
For example, three big men were allowed out of prison early and sent to a Church to do community service. The priest told them to do something good. They came back a week later and the priest asked them what they did. “I helped an old lady cross the road,” said the first man. “Ok, that’s not great, but it is good” the priest replied. “I also helped that lady cross the road” said the next man. “I also helped that lady cross the road” added the third man. “Why do you all have bruises on your face and why was it so hard to do something good other than help an old lady cross the road” asked the priest. “Well father, we wanted to do something good, but she kept hitting us with her stick because she did not want to cross the road.”
These men may have done something they thought was good but what they did was not very beautiful.
The birth of Jesus for us is much more than merry or good, it is beautiful in a specific way. God is beautiful in how He expresses Himself to us. We read in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is much more than just merry or good on a general way it is truly beautiful in a specific way.
What is the most common thing people say when a child is born? Everyone says the child is beautiful long before the child has done anything good because beauty expresses a deeper element. Is our celebration beautiful because it is the birth of a child? Yes, but much more. We are not just celebrating the birth of any child but the birth of God who was born as a child so that we can see His face and respond to His invitation to have a personal relationship with Him.
Saint Paul says in today’s letter to the Galatians: 4:4-5 “when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,  to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
God’s love for us is good and it is much more than that, it is truly beautiful. The wise men also recognized the beauty of this event. The Gospel of Matthew (2:10-11) tells us: “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy;  and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
We often overlook that Jesus could have been born in any way possible. He could have come as a king. He could have been born into a wealthy family. But he chose to be born in poverty, in simplicity, and as a child. Why do you think Jesus was born in this way? One reason is that a king or emperor demands our submission, whereas a child needs our commitment. Jesus does not want our submission He wants our commitment.
Most people try very hard to be beautiful, but what is beauty? Is true beauty external or is it internal? The Bible warns us not to focus too much on external beauty. Proverbs 31:30. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain.”
We are encouraged to find a more authentic and longer lasting beauty. In Psalm 27:4 we read: “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.” Also, Isaiah 52:7 tells us: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings.” When we focus on only external beauty we forget that things are not beautiful, God is beautiful, and the more we are like God the more beautiful we are.
I wish you and your family a “Merry Christmas”; a Christmas that is happy, joyful, and festive.
I also wish you Milad Majid: A glorious Christmas.
Most important a “kala Christougenna” (καλά Χριστούγεννα), a happy and beautiful Christmas, as we welcome Jesus the most beautiful gift we have ever received.
Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870-4537
My cell phone: 714-914-1710
New Holy Cross Church YOUTUBE Clip posted on September 13, 2016: www.youtube.com/HolyCrossMelkite
“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24