On the Birth of Christ: A Homily

Recent news has drawn the world’s attention to several significant global conflicts. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, terrorism here and abroad, territorial disputes in the South China Sea, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Isis, the Refugee Crisis in the European Union, the Kurdish Conflict, criminal violence in Mexico, Earthquake and Hurricane torn Haiti, internal factions in our communities and even in our families, and more.

Our question today is, where is the "peace on earth and good will toward men" of which Luke 2:14 speaks?

Pessimism and hopelessness have gripped hearts. Is our claim on faith just a figment of the imagination?

In the face of uncertainty, we need help! Where can we go? What should we do? Where can we find the peace that Christmas promises? 

Twentieth Century theologian Karl Barth says that the preacher should hold the newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other; scripture speaks in the face of difficult news. 

Isaiah 11:2-3 speaks of the day when the Spirit of the Lord would rest upon a little child who would be the Messiah. The Spirit would rest on Him in such a way that situations around Him would not discourage Him nor determine His power. 

The Holy Spirit would be the source of His wisdom, counsel, and knowledge. The magnitude of his domain would superimpose situations in life.

His insight would not be discernible through the vision of his physical eyes.

His judgment would not be based on what people say around him.

He would look and hear. But, what he would see and hear on earth would not be more real than what he would see through the vision of His divine imagination.

A mission to realize God's righteousness and justice, the birth of the Messiah child would sneak up on humanity in an unprecedented and powerful way. 

Isaiah prophesied that when the Messiah comes, He would remember the forgotten and people's needs would be met. 

This branch from Jesse’s stump would rule with power. He would need no nomination; so votes would not be necessary. Unlike most kings who are born a prince and have to wait their turn to be king, this King would be born a King!

He would aim to please the Father and not humankind. His life, teachings, and death would be for the sole purpose of saving humanity from the clutches of evil, hate, injustice and unrighteousness.

His Words would be so profound, so powerful that people would either love him or hate him. Yet, his ultimate goal would be to heal and not hurt; to bring peace and not war. Even the storms would come to a screeching halt when He would speak.

The miracle of his Kingdom would end opposing forces and cause wolves to live with the lambs, leopards to lie down with the goats,

This little child will lead an unlikely herd of calves, lions, and young horses together. 

The cows will eat with the bear, their young will lie down together,
  and the lion will eat straw like the ox. (ref. Isaiah 11:6–7)

 But, since He can do that, 

  • Can He make family members love each other?
  • Can He make Muslims, Jews and Christians eat a meal together?
  • Can He make peace in Syria? 
  • Can He make peace between Israel and Palestine?
  • Can He cause Isis to beat their swords into plowshares and study war no more?
  • Can He bring racial reconciliation in the United States of America?
  • Can He level the playing field so that everyone has equal access, equal motivation, and equal opportunity?
  • Can He heal addictions?
  • Can He heal wounded hearts?
  • Can He heal sick bodies?
  • Can He revive crushed hope?
  • Can He help us through life's toughest challenges?
  • Can He give us peace of mind?

With great conviction and with great expectation, I hasten to say, "Yes He can!"

The peace, hope, joy, and wholeness we desperately search for is among us. It came to earth when Jesus was born!

Let's not gaze too intensely at the vicissitudes of life and miss it! 

We miss it when we miss Him! 

Many people missed it in the biblical narrative of Christ's birth. A Negro Spiritual captures the story in a powerful way,

Sweet little Jesus Boy — 

They made you be born in a manger. 

Sweet little Holy Child — 

Didn't know who you was. 

Didn't know you'd come to save us, Lord; 

To take our sins away. 

Our eyes was blind, we couldn't see, 

We didn't know who you was.

Long time ago, you was born, 

Born in a manger low, 

Sweet little Jesus Boy. 

The world treat you mean, Lord, 

Treat me mean too, 

But that's how things is down here — 

We don't know who you is.

Luke 2:10–14 says,  

The angel said unto them (the Shepherds), Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'

The hustle and bustle of political pandemonium; the mad rush to adhere to Caesar’s decree filled the city with noise and clamoring.

It was hard to hear the sound of peace. It was hard to find joy in the middle of the chaos. 

All along, peace was about to be born in an unlikely place and would be  revealed to unlikely people -- shepherds, wise men.

But, the peace He was bringing was for everyone.  

Let us rediscover peace, and know it when we see it.  

Like the shepherds, let us: "go tell it on the mountain, over the hills and everywhere. Go tell it on the mountain. Jesus Christ is born!"

Consider this poem by James Weldon Johnson called “Deep in the Quiet Wood:"

Are you bowed down in heart?

Do you but hear the clashing discords and the din of life?

Then come away, come to the peaceful wood,

Here bathe your soul in silence. Listen! Now,

From out the palpitating solitude

Do you not catch, yet faint, elusive strains?

They are above, around, within you, everywhere.

Silently listen! Clear, and still more clear, they come.

They bubble up in rippling notes, and swell in singing tones.

Now let your soul run the whole gamut of the wondrous scale

Until, responsive to the tonic chord,

It touches the diapason of God’s grand cathedral organ,

Filling earth for you with heavenly peace

And holy harmonies.

Where is the peace? The peace is the bold, rejected, the palpitating solitude in the middle of life's chaos. Only Jesus can give that kind of peace!

Blessings to you and your family,

Dr. Antipas

“Dr. Antipas L. Harris is a scholar and modern-day theologian who is not only academically trained, but a gifted orator and as much a student of the word as he is a teacher. Dr. Harris is truly a young man far beyond his years in that he exudes wisdom and genuine love for the word of God and God's people. He has ministered at both our local church and also our conferences. His ability to exegete the text and not leave a stone unturned in his delivery is astounding. His passion for the purpose and call of his life is evident and his steps are being ordered by the Lord.” Bishop T.D. Jakes, C.E.O. TDJ Enterprises; New York Times Best-selling Author Dr. Antipas L. Harris is a man of many talents. He is professor, pastor, and public theologian. He serves as dean of the Urban Renewal Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Formally, he served as part of the full-time faculty at Regent University School of Divinity. Also, he is founder of two organizations. One is GIELD, Inc. (Global Institute for Empowerment and Leadership Development), which is a non-profit with the mission to create opportunities for developing quality leaders with the Church and society for today and tomorrow. The other organization is Antipas Enterprises, LLC. to provide ministry and business solutions.  From humble beginnings in a small Holiness-Pentecostal church, founded and pastored by his parents, to ultimately becoming an accomplished leader in many industries. Dr. Harris approaches every project and assignment with passionate effort to fulfill God’s purpose for his life. His objective is simple; to help people overcome distress, to reinforce faith, to impart comfort through the arts and to provide stability through education. Harris is a true force to be reckoned with, and he’s not done yet. His motto is “Rise to the Call.” Antipas grew up in a small rural town called Manchester, Georgia, with a population of approximately 4,000 people. He is the second born of eight children– five boys and three girls. Harris discovered his passion for religion, music and the arts in his parents’ church. A child prodigy, Harris first revealed his gifts of music at 2 years old. By 12 years old, Harris was the lead musician at his home church. Education Dr. Antipas L. Harris followed his dreams of becoming a theologian and music producer. He was accepted into LaGrange College where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree (cum laude) in Creative Music Technologies and in Religion. He continued his studies at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology obtaining a Master of Divinity degree. Then, he earned another Master’s degree but this time in Sacred Theology from Yale University Divinity School. Antipas ended his academic pursuits with one more degree, a Doctor of Ministry in Practical Theology (Church and Society) from Boston University. With efforts to learn as much as he can, Antipas also studied at Harvard University, Boston College, and Gordon -Conwell Theological Seminary. “Since his days at LaGrange College where I was president, Antipas has been an ‘unstoppable’ force. Even then, he showed great promise as a successful musician, theologian, minister and husband.” F. Stuart Gulley, Ph.D., Past President, LaGrange College (LaGrange, GA), President, Woodward Academy (Atlanta, GA) Ministry Dr. Harris has served on several pastoral staffs and currently serves as Theologian in Residence at the First Presbyterian Church of Norfolk, VA. From pulpits to the street corners, to churches, to large arenas, he has shared the good news and led thousands to faith for nearly 25 years. He has been a mentor for young people and his students as well as a friend to the homeless and downtrodden. Dr. Harris was instrumental in planting two churches. One is a local church in Portsmouth, Virginia and the other one is in Kananga of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He intends to continue planting churches throughout the world. As a teacher and leader of leaders, his vision is to raise-up leaders to pastor the churches and to lead ministries. Teaching Dr. Antipas creatively weaves scholarship, everyday experiences and theology with passion. He connects well with a variety of audiences in a personal way. Dr. Harris has taught teenagers as a Youth Pastor. He has taught undergraduates as an Adjunct Professor at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. He has taught at a graduate school for Prisoners at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, New York, through New York Theological Seminary. He has taught at continuing education level for pastors and ministers in pursuit of refresher courses to enhance their ministries. Currently, Dr. Antipas teaches graduate and doctoral level students at Regent University School of Divinity. Community Service Dr. Harris is active, not only in his community, but also internationally. In the Hampton Roads region, he has completed the FBI Citizens’ Academy and LEAD Hampton Roads. He serves on two local non-profit boards – the board of directors for the Hampton Roads Committee of 200 Plus Men, Inc., where he is co-chair of the Education Committee, contributing his expertise as an urban education consultant and applies his passion to help African American teenagers to succeed, and he serves on the board of directors for the Mid-Atlantic Teen Challenge in Newport News, Virginia. “A young, black, and gifted theologian from the clay hills of rural Georgia...a breath of fresh air with a desire to see the hard core inner-city demographic changed...” Francys Johnson J.D., Attorney and Counselor at Law, President of Georgia State Conference of the NAACP Scholarship Dr. Harris teaches at Regent University where he serves as an Associate Professor. He is an ardent writer and author. He has published books, several chapters in edited volumes and journal articles. He blogs regularly and is, also, an Op-Ed Contributor for the Christian Post. Some of his articles and social commentaries have been published in the Washington Post, Religion News Service, and Sojourner. “Dr. Harris is a bright and energetic scholar with tremendous promise. He writes with clear and compelling prose.” William C. Turner, Jr., PhD, Professor, Duke University Divinity School Family With all of his accomplishments, Antipas continues to spread the gospel to the world through preaching and teaching God’s word. He also continues to support, participate and provide consultancy in areas of worship, urban outreach and urban education. Antipas was blessed with a partner who shares his love for teaching and the arts. He is married to Micah, who is an Assistant Principal in the Virginia Beach Public School System, a skilled modern dancer and choreographer, and author ("Unstoppable Success" Workbook and Blog: Lead to Learn). Antipas and Micah reside in Virginia Beach. To find out more about Dr. Antipas’ community involvement please visit www.antipasharris.com. Prayerfully consider a tax-deductible gift to GIELD, Inc. to support our efforts to educate, empower and provide enrichment for leaders in the church and society for today and tomorrow.