A Sermon on Christmas Servant of God, Isaac Thomas Hecker Church of Saint Paul the Apostle, New York, Christmas Day 1870 The following is an edited version of a sermon delivered by Father Hecker on Christmas Day 1870. It is the only surviving sermon of Hecker on the subject of Christmas. It is provided here as a single sermon in three sections. This will allow you to copy or quote from it in its entirety in whatever form you may choose during the Christmas season.
God became man to facilitate man’s love for God. For had God become an angel and made himself visible to us, we would have been bound to love Him just as much as we are bound to love Him as a man. However this would have been more difficult for resemblance begets love. Thus when we seek to attract the attention of another or win their love, we seek to resemble them in our dress, our conduct, our speech and in all things. Just as a mother prattles with her child to gain attention and awaken its affection, so Christ takes the form of a servant being made in the likeness of men to captivate our hearts.
Christ was really truly man and being man bound us to love him not only by the law of resemblance, but by the strongest of ties. For it is the law of nature that “like loves like.” Birds love birds. Beasts love beasts, man loves man. God as man can bind us to Himself with cords of common sympathy, calls forth a spontaneous devotion and awakes the deepest and warmest affections of our hearts.
God is shrouded in our common humanity. Christ is our brother who we can approach with feelings of confidence and affection. When the Indians go out to hunt the buffalo, they cover themselves with buffalo skin. By this device they lose their fear of the animal and are allowed to approach near enough to shoot them. So Our Blessed Lord approaches us without awaking our fears, covers Himself with our humanity and captivates our hearts with the fire of His divine love. O blessed hunter of the hearts of man! O goodness and kindness of our God and Saviour.
The invisible became visible, God became man. Can the treasure of God’s infinite love be exhausted? Can God do more than this to win back His creatures? Yes! For God’s love acknowledges no limit and nothing is impossible with God. God can become a babe! For love not only surrenders itself to the object loved but surrenders itself in the form most attractive to the object loved. For in an infant we see all that is good, lovely and sweet in human nature without all that is repulsive.
Where is there a human heart that can resist this strategy of Divine love? The Almighty God as a helpless infant! Truly God has made himself of no account for our sakes. Look at the infant laying in the cold straw, in the poor crib, in the inclement stable! Who is so poor as to not learn a lesson in poverty? Who is so timid that fears to approach this helpless babe as he stretches out his little hands to show us love?
Do you not see O sinner that God has chosen a cave to come to us because it is open, so that we might have access to Him and request His pardon for our sins and be restored to His love? “Don’t fear me for I am helpless,” he cries. “Can you doubt that I entrust myself to you?”
Is this the same God who cried out to Adam after his fall and made the earth tremble? It is ! But not as Judge and Punisher but as Saviour, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. The Divine Lover of souls!
“Peace on earth to men of good will.” Peace. This is what all seek and not find. For God alone is its giver. For peace springs alone from the reconciliation with man and only God can produce this. O blessed peace, peace with God, a foretaste of Paradise! O blessed peace, peace among men, a heaven upon the earth! “Peace on earth.” The earth had no peace without God
Before the birth of the Saviour the state of the earth was war, and today the state of nations which have abandoned the Saviour since his birth, is war. Might made right not truth and justice. So it is today. For Christ is the peace of the world. His kingdom is peace on earth.
“To men of good will.” Good will to all who earnestly and sincerely seek God. To all, whether Jew or Gentile, Christian or non-Christian for God is the Father of all and no respecter of persons.
O sweet infant Saviour, give to us that peace which you came to bring on the earth. Peace to the young and the old, to the poor and the sick, to the sorrowful and to all of good will. Peace on earth to all nations, especially to Your Holy Church (Papal States) and to Your Vicar the Pope who like You suffers from the hands of others. Peace to the world at war that your kingdom may begin!