Thursday, December 25, 2014

Put A Ring On It

Solemnity Of The Nativity Of The Lord
(Mass During The Day)

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 97:1-6; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18

I need no permission. Did I mention?
Don't pay him any attention.
‘Cos you had your turn. And now you’re gonna learn.
What it really feels like to miss me.
‘Cos if you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it.
If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it...

Sisters and brothers, I think at least some of you are familiar with these words. They come from a song, by BeyoncĂ©, entitled Single Ladies. The song, as you may recall, is sung by a recently single lady. A woman who has just broken up with her boyfriend. And she broke up with him because, even though they had been together for three years, he still hadn’t proposed to her. Hadn’t put a ring on her finger. Perhaps he had shown her a good time. Bought her expensive gifts. Even whispered sweet nothings in her ear. But, after three years, all of that just wasn’t enough. ‘Cos, if you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it. If he really loved her, he should have proposed to her by now.

The song can perhaps be summarised in three words: Talk is cheap. Talk is cheap, if it’s not translated into appropriate action. Into visible effects. Words of love should eventually lead to a marriage proposal. A ring on the finger. A visible expression of the lover’s commitment to spending his whole life with the beloved. Otherwise they’re just mere words. Empty talk. Hollow sounds that can be heard. But the effects of which cannot be seen. And talk like that doesn’t have much value. Empty talk is cheap. If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it…

I mention this song not because I want to scandalise you. But  because I think it provides a helpful contrast to what we are celebrating today. Christmas is the exact opposite of empty talk. In direct contrast to worthless words, what we celebrate today is a Word-Beyond-Price. A Word of great Power and Beauty. A Word that has visible effects in our lives and in our world. A Word that can not only be heard. But also seen and felt.

In the first reading, for seventy long years, the people of Judah have been suffering in exile in Babylon. And now, God finally speaks to them a reassuring Word. A promise of salvation. And, unlike many of our human words, God’s Word is not empty but full. God’s Word is grounded in a serious commitment on the part of God. Commitment to the people’s well-being. Commitment that is expressed in effective action. Not only is the Lord consoling his people. The Lord is actually already redeeming them. Setting them free from exile. Returning them to their own land. The Lord bares his holy arm in the sight of the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God. Unlike empty talk, which only rings in our ears, God’s Word has effects that can be seen with our eyes. It is a Word-of-Great-Beauty. A Word-Beyond-Price.

But that’s still not quite the full extent of what we celebrate at Christmas. For what is seen in the first reading are only the effects of God’s Word spoken through the prophets. Through human messengers. At Christmas, something even more wonderful happens. Not just the effects. But God’s Word Himself becomes visible. Speaking to us no longer only through the borrowed voices of human messengers. But in His own Voice. As the second reading reminds us, at various times in the past... God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time... he has spoken to us through his Son.

And the gospel tells us just how this remarkable communication comes about. The Word was made flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory. This is what Christmas is about. This is what we celebrate. The Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, becomes a human being. Takes on human flesh. So as to speak to us, in a human voice that is His very own. To bear with us the burdens and temptations of human existence, in a body that is his very own. To lay down, and then to take up again, a human life that is his very own. And all of this to prove to us just how committed God is to us. How much in love God is with us. How willing God is to pay any price, to bear any sacrifice, for us.

Sisters and brothers, this is the wondrous Mystery we are celebrating today. The Mystery of a God who is not satisfied with just whispering sweet nothings in our ears. Or simply showing us a good time. Today, we celebrate a God who does what that boyfriend in BeyoncĂ©’s song was unwilling to do. In the coming of Christ at Christmas, God makes an unbreakable commitment to us. God offers us an irrevocable proposal of marriage. God gives to us a ring to be placed on our finger. A visible sign of a Love-Beyond-All-Telling. Spoken in a Word-of-Great-Beauty. A Word-That-Was-Made-Flesh. A Word-Beyond-Price.

And what a joy this is for us. This commitment of God. For us who live in a society that enjoys such a great abundance of options. But that so often finds itself unable to choose among them. Unwilling to commit to any one of them. For to say yes to one, is also often to so no to the others. Something that many of us can’t quite bring ourselves to do. Are afraid to do. And, even when we do manage to commit, we frequently find ourselves unable to live out the implications of that commitment. Isn’t this why so many marriages break down? And within a few years of the wedding.

And yet, even though we may seem so allergic to commitment, there remains a part of us that can’t live without it. In a society that often seems to know nothing else than empty talk, there remains a place deep within our hearts where we still yearn to hear and to see the Word-Beyond-Price. To experience God committing Himself to us in an irrevocable proposal of marriage.

But let us be honest, sisters and brothers. A marriage proposal is still only a proposal. For a marriage to result, something else is needed. The proposal must be accepted. Accepted not just with empty talk. But with true commitment. Commitment made visible in lives that are lived the way John the Baptist lived his life. As a witness to speak for the light, so that everyone might believe through him. This, too, my dear friends, is what we celebrate at Christmas. Not just God’s commitment to us. But also our acceptance of that commitment. And our making of a return-commitment to God. In our Baptism. In our Confirmation. In the Eucharist. In our daily lives...

Sisters and brothers, empty talk is cheap. If you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it. In the coming of Christ at Christmas, our Divine Boyfriend has already placed a ring on our finger. Has already committed Himself to us in a Word that cannot be taken back. A Word-of-Great-Beauty. A Word-Made-Flesh. A Word-Beyond-Price. How shall we respond? What kind of word shall we speak? What commitment shall we make? How might we place a ring on the Lord’s finger today?

1 comment:

  1. O Lord Emmanuel,

    This Christmas pease show me how to renew my commitment to You.

    As You had put the ring on my finger, teach me O Lord, how I can reciprocate and do the same for You.

    Lord, let me never take You for granted and teach me to remain faithful to You, as You are always faithful, as my Lord and God.

    O Come, Lord Emmanuel....

    May YOU always INCREASE, as I decrease. Amen.

    Sih Ying
    25 December 2014