HOMILY FOR THE NATIVITY OF OF THE LORD (CHRISTMAS MORNING)
HOMILY: BEAUTIFUL FEET OF THE ONE WHO COMES (Ukwu oma!)
Finally it’s Christmas! At Christmas we reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation, the coming of the Son of God into the world in the likeness of men. It is a mystery beyond all telling, and a recap of God’s wonderful act of creation. At creation he made humanity in his own image and likeness, for salvation of man, he took the likeness of men!
This period is glorious, characterized with so much glamour and remarkable holiday experiences. Ironically, the actual nativity of the Lord had little or no glamour. The only glamorous thing at the time could have been the bright star very high up the sky, observed only by the three wise men. Every other thing was a manger laced with dry straws, an unkempt animal stall, strong with fumes of animal urines, droppings and stale fodder; a bizarre scenario of childbirth, not to mention the abject poverty of Mary and Joseph, coupled with the danger posed by Herod, destroyer of the Holy Innocents.
In the midst of all these lay the most precious creature! Lying in the manger was the baby Jesus, the Son of God, the Immanuel, God’s presence among men!
The choice of this place of filth as the birth place of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords has a number of messages for us. 1. The Christmas celebration is not all about glamour. Jesus comes into our world of sin and filth that something glorious and most precious might come out of it. 2. Jesus, the Master teaches us humility, that in our exalted positions we might look out for the lowly and see what we can do to better their situations.
An important aspect of the first reading which is worth reflecting upon says, “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings glad tidings”(Is. 52:7).
Every language of the world has a special expression for welcoming a visitor. Some of these expressions are general, while some are reserved for those who are particularly bearing good tidings. The Hebrews greet “baruk haba”, implying ‘blessed is he who comes’. In the Culture of the Igbos, from the Eastern part of Nigeria in West Africa, the expression “Ukwu oma” could directly be translated “beautiful feet”. It implies that the one who comes either brings good fortune or is lucky to meet good fortune. Some people even bear the name “Ukwuoma”. And surely, everyone desires both meanings or this expression, that is, to meet good fortunes wherever they go and also to be a harbinger of good tidings.
The first reading speaks about the beautiful feet of the one who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, anouncing salvation. He is saying to Zion, “your God is king”. The message is perfect. This Deutro-Isaiah writing declares the joy of Zion at her liberation. It was the scene following the decree of King Cyrus which offered freedom for Israelites to return to Jerusalem. There is a classic presentation of the watchmen, waiting eagerly for the one who brings this good news. Every step he takes is glorious as he approaches!
If the feet of the one who brings news of liberation from slavery is this beautiful, how beautiful would be those of the One who brings salvation to all mankind, from sin and eternal damnation and offers eternal life in exchange?
The Christmas celebrations involve a lot of travelling. In most Christian cultures, people travel to visit family, friends and loved ones. Some of those visits are out of nostalgia, some, out of compulsion. Some people are full of anticipation as they anticipate these visits, while others full of trepidation. Some families use this period to broker peace, while some others fall apart after their meeting. It all depends on the beauty or ugliness of the feet of the ones who visit or are visited! Those who truly welcome Christ are agents of Peace. They give him a space in their hearts to be incarnate in them, and whether they visit other people or are visited, they have peace to offer. Some others do not truly welcome Christ, the Prince of Peace.
They neither give him a place in their hearts nor do they allow others to meet him. The Culture of the Igbos might identify this group of people with “Ukwu ojoo”, implying their feet are evil, and what they carry about is evil.
But, this is not where the children of God belong. They are rather carriers of glad tidings. In obedience to Christ’s mandate and following his example, they carry the good news to the ends of the earth.
As the Prince of Peace comes into our world with perfect humility, to give value to our filthy world, with his feet beautiful and glorious, bearing glad tidings, we are all invited to emulate him, to add value to the lives of those we meet, to ensure our presence brings peace and harmony. The three wise men had beautiful feet, bearing good tidings of the birth of the Messiah. And they protected their glad tidings even when Herod wanted to soil their beauty and daint their sacred mission. So, it is not enough to have the good feet or bear the glad tidings, we must also protect it. This amounts to defending the truth wherever it is being subverted, be it in our homes, in our family or village meetings.
Mother in laws, daughter in laws, Father in laws and Son in laws, parents, brothers and sisters, kinsmen and neighbours, all and sundry are called to welcome Christ in our lives and to live like him. May Christ the Immanuel be incarnate in your life, in your families and in your endeavours through Christ our Lord, amen.
Happy Sunday &
-Fr. Precious Ezeh