"The Case for Christ"

As a child I never understood why people in my hometown spent so much money, time and energy, to decorate the entire church, lit up the entire area around the church, and put up a magnificent Carol the night before. The next day, I did not understand why we set the best of our clothes and wear on that day. I didn't understand that. I didn't understand why that was the biggest event of the entire year not only for those who live in the town but also for thousands of people who travel from everywhere. They came; they wanted to participate in This Magnificent night. Catholics or non-catholic alike, enjoy it so much, they enjoy from the moment the fire being set, the songs being sung by a large choir, and the Mass in the middle of the night. Elderly sitting out there under the cold, children dressed their best, waiting for the moment. I could not forget that experience of being there at midnight mass.

Brothers and sisters, tonight we are here; we are celebrating something so magnificent. If you pay attention in the last four weeks of Advent, every reading, every day, the church presented to all of us an event of some sort. Let It Be events happen in the past, in the Old Testament where the tinted, where the prophet Isaiah talking about a woman will conceive and give birth to a child, and he shall be called the Emmanuel. God is with us. or King Ahaz being asked to dream big, not a small little dream, but dream big for a Creator who loves Humanity so much that he wanted to be with them. or the event with John the Baptist being conceived, and later on, proclaiming the coming of the Messiah. Or Joseph and Mary, how they encountered the angel, how they changed their life and their plans to say yes to God. All of those events are set up for today.

Why is that so important that the church deliberately presented it to all of us in that fashion? And now I understand, I believe that the church is making a case for Christ. The church is arguing for the presence of Christ in the world, the church is celebrating the beautiful truth that perhaps today many of us have forgotten. Christmas is not just about celebrating the birth of our Lord, actually Christmas is a statement that God has spoken, and he summoned the whole world to listen. Today's Gospel is the birth of the Son of God, the birth of our Lord Jesus. it's actually a summon for the entire known universe from Heaven Down to Earth, from Shepherd to animals, all have to come and worship him. Or have to come and see for them the visible face of the invisible God. Fascinating, beautiful, this is the truth perhaps we have to relearn once again.

Just like a man named Lee Strobel. a known journalist in Chicago. He was an atheist, he did not believe in God. He’ll live a very hedonistic life, he enjoys all sort of immorality you could imagine. He met that confession and you could see him online recalling his story. He wrote a book called "The Case for Christ". He did that only to disprove his wife Newfound Christian faith. He is married to his wife, have children. He did not want her to know or love Christianity because he hated it. Upon receiving the news that his wife has turned Evangelical, he was so upset and he set out to disprove everything that she has learned to be true. So he studied for two years as an investigative journalist. He'd dig up documents from the ancient past, he learned all he could to show to his wife Christianity is a fraud, is the product of the human mind, designed to keep Humanity at place.

Interestingly enough he discovered four es. I wanted to share with you. First e, he has to do with the execution of Jesus. he discovered that Jesus was real, he was a historical figure. Every ancient document related to him actually pinpoints the fact that the man named Jesus was actually executed by the Roman, was actually dead, and was actually known in the first century. Second e has to do with early reports of what had happened to the body of Jesus. Immediately after his death, an only report shared among the faithful, shared among all the contemporaries of Jesus, that Jesus actually died and after three days he rose again from the dead. While his disciples did not wait for too long, Proclaim him because he, one way or another appeared to them and that led him to the third e - empty tomb. He studied the empty tomb, and he dug up ancient documents about the empty tomb. How could that be, an empty tomb? Could it be someone who stole the body that was spreading among the Pharisees? The leaders of the day spread rumors that the disciples of Jesus came in the middle of the night and stole the body. But that could not be true because they didn't know about it. They didn't have a means to do so, and their guards were watching the tomb. And the last one has to do with eyewitnesses. If the story of Jesus was not true, why did people die for something that was not important at all? Why did they die for him? Why are those 11 disciples, if Jesus laid up their life for him, most of them were executed. Executed, crucify upside down, or torn in pieces, or have their head chopped. how could that be all these eyewitnesses, 500 of them, all once encountered the Risen Christ that Jesus could not be anything else other than God in person. So he decided to believe.

Start out to disprove everything Christianity stands for, now he realized he discovered a treasure. Actually Christ is a real deal. So my brothers and sisters, we are here tonight, we are here to celebrate the Risen Christ who was born a long time ago. He was God of Heaven and Earth making sure you and I know the visible face of the heavenly father, he decided to be part of our human history; he decided to be part of our life. If we believe him as real God, real man in person, he should have a claim on what we do and how we conduct our life. if we believe him, then, my dear brothers and sisters, should our faith guide our action? Guide our life? Should we proclaim him like a real eye witness? Today we don't have that many people who believe in Christ anymore. We don't have the same crowd that says hosanna in the highest, just you and I. As you and I and those poor people in Vietnam, in the Philippines, in Africa, and elsewhere, the good Lord relies on you and I to proclaim good news. Caesar Augustus decreed and summoned all people to report back to him. Caesar Augustus was known as the Son of God. what he said was deemed to be good news, but in fact it was not good news. In today's world, the political system is declared as our savior. a lot of gurus claim to have the truth. But do we accept Christ as our Lord and savior? Do we accept him as a truly God man and present among us today? My dear brothers and sister, shall we be his eyewitnesses proclaimed to the world that God is real, he is present Among Us, and he has a claim on my life, in your life, and all lives in this world. That is an amazing statement we're going to make. Now I understand why the church takes so much pain to draw so many connections between the old and the new, and now at this very moment. Because the church believes Christ is a real deal. It’s not just a fictional character; it's not a person of the ancient past. He is the Lord of Heaven and Earth. He is God among Us. So Merry Christmas to all of you and your family. May this Christmas serve as the beginning of our conversion back to Christ?

20221224 聖誕夜彌撒— 安神父

小時候我一直不明白,為什麼聖誕節前,我們老家的教堂要花那麼多的錢、時間和精力,來裝飾教堂,並且用燈飾來照亮教堂和它的周圍。然後聖詠團會在聖誕夜演唱莊嚴的歌曲。 聖誕節的那一天,我們要穿最好衣服。 更奇怪的是,聖誕節不僅對我們鎮上的居民很重要,對世界上大多數的人來說都是ㄧ個最偉大的節日。天主教徒,非天主教徒聚集在ㄧ起歡心的享受這個美麗的夜晚。 燭光點起,聆聽著美妙的歌曲,一直到午夜的聖誕彌撒,每一個人都沉浸在其間。 年長者坐在寒冷的庭院中,孩子們穿著最好的衣服,一起等待耶穌的降臨。 我實在無法忘記聖誕夜彌撒給我的的感動。

兄弟姐妹們,今晚我們慶祝聖誕節這個偉大的節日。 讓我們回顧將臨期四個主日的聖言;慈母教會向我們陳述的聖誕節故事。 首先它提到了先知依撒意亞的預言:“一個女人將懷孕生子,這孩子將被稱為厄瑪奴耳—天主與我們同在”。 又提到了天主要求阿哈次王,為他的子民作個大膽的夢求天主表現出天主對人類的熱愛並渴望與人永遠在一起。 也提到了施洗若翰的受孕,在腹中就受到聖神的感動,後來預報了彌賽亞的來臨。 最後提到了若瑟和瑪麗亞遇到了天使,他們向天主的計劃說“是”而改變了這個世界。 這些聖言都是為了準備我們接受主耶穌的誕生。

為什麼教會要以各種方式向世人展示聖誕節呢? 教會是在為基督辯護,它慶祝,顯揚並且見證許多人已經忽略的真理—基督在這世界上的臨在。 聖誕節不只是慶祝主耶穌的誕生,它也召喚全世界來聆聽天主的話語。 聖誕節的福音是天主子的誕生。 天主召喚整個宇宙,從天堂到人間,從牧羊人到動物,都來朝拜聖子耶穌。 讓他們看到不可見天主的面容是如此的動人和美麗。

有一個叫 Lee Strobel 的人,他是ㄧ位芝加哥有名的記者,是個無神論者。他不相信天主,過著享樂的生活,體驗各種不道德的行為。 在網上你可以看到他的故事和懺悔。 他寫了一本書 “基督的案子”。 他寫這本書的用意是反對他妻子的基督信仰。 他已娶妻生子, 討厭任何宗教, 不想讓妻子信仰基督。因此得知他的妻子已經成為基督福音派的一份子後,非常沮喪。他以記者的能力,費時兩年對基督做了調查來反對妻子的信仰。 研究古今文件,企圖證明基督是一個騙局,出於人類的想像,目的是使人類原地踏步,窒怠不前。

有趣的是,他調查結論包含在四個 E 字裡面。 讓我在這裡和你分享這四個 E 字的結論。第一個 E (Execution) 與耶穌的處決有關。 他發現耶穌是一個真實的,在歷史上存在的人物。 每一份與祂有關的古文獻都指出了這位名叫耶穌的人被羅馬人處決的事實。祂的處決在第一世紀就有記載。 第二個 E 字 (Early reports) 是根據於對耶穌復活的早期報告。耶穌被處決後復活這件事最早是在門徒之間分享,也與耶穌接觸過的人中間分享。耶穌被處決後沒有多久就流傳耶穌在三天後從死者中復活了。宣告耶穌復活是因為耶穌以各種方式親自顯現給他們。這就把我們帶到了第三 E 字(Empty tomb) 空墓上。 李先生研究了空墓的故事,探討了關於空墓的古代文獻。 這怎麼可能呢,一座沒有屍體的空墳墓? 當法利賽人流傳説屍體是被偷走的。領導人也散佈這個謠言說耶穌的門徒半夜來偷走了屍體。是不可能的。門徒是無法偷屍體的,因為領導人派了衛兵看守著墳墓。 最後一個 E 字(Eyewitnesses)指的是見證人。 如果耶穌沒有從死者中復活,宗徒們會為耶穌而死嗎?大多數的宗徒被處決了,釘死了,撕成碎片,或砍頭。 為什麼他們都為信仰耶穌而捨命? 當時親眼目擊復活耶穌的人大約有500 多。耶穌就是永生的天主,除此之外別無其它選擇。 “基督的案子” 調查後的結論就是必須相信主耶穌。

為了反對基督來調查基督,卻發現了寶藏。 他發現了耶穌基督是貨真價實的。 兄弟姐妹們,我們今晚在這裡慶祝2000年前基督的誕生。 因為天主要確保我們能瞻仰到天父可見的面容,所以祂就決定要成為人類歷史的一部分,降生成人。 如果我們相信祂是真天主,真人,我們就必須求祂來掌管我們的ㄧ切,來見證及宣報祂的降臨。今天相信基督的人越來越少,在人群中高喊 “賀三納” 的只有你和我。良善的主要依靠你和我,那些在越南、菲律賓、非洲和其它地方的窮人,來宣揚聖誕節的好消息。 羅馬皇帝凱撒奧古斯都下令召集所有人向他匯報。 但我們呢?我們是否接受基督為我們的救主? 是否接受他是真神又真人親臨於我們中間? 親愛的兄弟姐妹,我們必須做天主的見證人,向世界宣告天主是真實的,就在我們中間。對你我的生命、以及這個世界上所有的生命都有份。 這就是我們的聲明。 為什麼教會如此費力地將新舊的事物呈現給大家來慶祝聖誕節? 因為教會相信基督是真實的,不是一個虛構的人物,不僅僅是一個歷史上的人物。 祂是天地的主宰,親臨我們中間的唯一真神。 祝您和您的家人聖誕快樂。 讓我們將這個聖誕節作為我們再次皈依基督的開始。