Dr. King’s Christmas Sermon

On Christmas of 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. preached the following words: “The next thing we must be concerned about if we are to have peace on earth and good will toward men is the nonviolent affirmation of the sacredness of all human life. Every man is somebody because he is a child of God…Man…is more than…whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke … Man is a child of God, made in His image, and therefore must be respected as such…And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won’t exploit people, we won’t trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won’t kill anybody.”

Christmas is a marvelous celebration. I love the festivity and decorations, the music and the meals. Christmas celebrates the greatest gift that we receive, Jesus Christ, and should therefore be a season of great festivity.

But in receiving such a tremendous gift, we receive a correspondingly great obligation, namely, the duty to welcome. Christ comes, but he does not come alone. He brings his love, but in doing so, he brings us the burden of loving all whom he loves. Yet his yoke is easy, his burden light, for he gives us also the power to love all whom he loves.

Christmas, therefore, takes away the option of excluding people from our love. God has a face now, and in that face we understand the dignity of all who share human nature, including our brothers and sisters in the womb.

We also understand that all who share that human nature belong to the One who takes that nature upon himself at Christmas. This Feast makes it clear that no human being can own another, or oppress another. Now, one of our brothers in the human family is God. To claim to be able to own or oppress anyone who shares a human nature is, therefore, to claim to be able to own and oppress God himself.

Vatican II taught, “By his incarnation the Son of God has united himself in some fashion with every human being” (GS, 22). Hence The Gospel of Life states, “It is precisely in the “flesh” of every person that Christ continues to reveal himself and to enter into fellowship with us, so that rejection of human life, in whatever form that rejection takes, is really a rejection of Christ” (EV #104) and again, life, especially human life, belongs only to God: for this reason whoever attacks human life, in some way attacks God himself (EV  #9).

As we celebrate Christmas, let’s echo Dr. King’s words and lets pray this beautiful prayer written by our Pastoral Associate Jim Pinto:

Face Prayer

Heavenly Father, I embrace your grace this day,
So that I might not:
Think of another,
Speak to another or
Touch another,
without first looking for
Your Face in the other.
I ask all this through
Jesus Christ:
God Incarnate,
God with Skin,
God made Poor,
God with a Face. Amen!

Fr. Frank Pavone


Father Frank A. Pavone is an American Roman Catholic priest and pro-life activist. He is the National Director of Priests for Life and serves as the Chairman and Pastoral Director of Rachel's Vineyard.

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  • jschmeidler

    While King’s message is inspirational, it should also be told that King was a supporter of Planned Parenthood, and in fact received their most prestigious Margaret Sanger award.

    His words are hollow and should have no meaning for Catholics as they do not apply, nor did he ever intend those words to apply to the unborn.

  • God uses even those mired deeply in sin to do His work. Dr. King very likely said far more than he knew. Indeed, by your logic, it would be just as wrong to use the tagline from “Horton Hears a Who” (“A person’s a person, no matter how small”) in prolife efforts, because of the vociferous objections of Theodore Geisel and his widow.

    No, these phrases are powerful tools to do good, and they should be used regardless of the sentiments of their originators.