St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians 3:4-11
Luke 14:16-24; Matthew 22:14
On the Sunday that falls on December 11-17, what is in essence the Sunday before the Sunday before Christmas, we celebrate Christ’s forefathers. We look back at the Old Testament and revisit all of those men and women whose lives led to the Incarnation. We honor Abraham whose seed produced the line of David — the line from which both Joseph and Mary come. This is the reason that they return to Bethlehem to participate in the census, the reason Christ is born in a cave for our salvation.
This is a reminder of our relationship with with the Old Testament, and what Scripture really is — revelation. The Bible is not an historical document, though it has historical elements that can be confirmed by science and archeology. The Bible is a document of revelation — it answers the question, “Who is God?” The New Testament answers this question explicitly — God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, is God the Son. Thus, when we look back at the Old Testament, we realize that God has been planning to give us His Son from the very beginning. As we say in the Anaphora (which means “offering up” and is the central prayer of the eucharist):
It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, You raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until You led us to heaven and granted us Your kingdom to come.
This is how we see and understand the Old Testament — it is the story of how God never stopped preparing for our salvation, the story of how He proceeded to do everything to prepare us for His Kingdom. So when, in today’s Epistle, St. Paul implores us to
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. — Colossians 3:5
it is in full knowledge that Christ has appeared in our lives and that we appear with Him in glory (Col 3:4).
The reality of Christ demands action. How can we do nothing knowing that all of the stories told in the Old Testament were preparation for this — you and I celebrating the Divine Liturgy together? How can we not leave behind fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness?
An idol is a statue made of bronze, gold or some other material part of creation. To worship an idol is to put fallen creation before God. St. Paul equates all of these negative behaviors — fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness — with idolatry. An extremely sad and disappointing example of this is the recent revelations about Tiger Woods. He placed sleeping around before his family and his career, let alone God. Look what it got him — his career is on indefinite hold while he tries to pick up the pieces of his life.
In today’s Gospel, the Father has invited us into His house in order to partake of His banquet. Interestingly, though we say that the reading today is from Luke, the last line is actually from Matthew 22:14, “For
many are called, but few are chosen.” In fact, everyone is called, “Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man” (Col 3:11). The choice is not the Father’s — He calls everyone to the cup, “Approach with the fear of God, faith, and love.” The choice is ours. We choose to act in response to the reality of all that God has done for us. We choose to act in response to the preparations made in the Old Testament. We choose to act in response to Christ born in a cave for out salvation. We choose to act in response to Christ on the cross. We choose to act in response to the reality that the Kingdom of God is open to us right here, right now.
We must make the choice right now to be the people of God — to go into the world and make God the center of everything we do. We all know how vital this choice is and how easy it is to make idols out of our property, our stuff and our relationships. So the Church gives us this, the Sunday of the Forefathers to help us remember: God has worked from the very beginning for this — for us to make the choice to live a life preparing for the cup, to make the choice to have Christ appear in your life and to make the choice to appear with Him in glory. Both now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.