Nativity, by John Baptiste Marie Pierre, France, 18th Century

Nativity, by John Baptiste Marie Pierre, France, 18th Century

Merry Christmas!

As a people of faith, as God’s family, we come together this holy night to celebrate once again God’s love and mercy, the gift of our salvation in the birth of his Son, Jesus. Christmas is the ultimate celebration of our belief in God and the reality that our God is not distant!

Jesus is the flesh of God, born upon the earth. Jesus is the mercy of God expressed in every human person’s hour of need. Jesus is the humility of God, who created the heavens and the earth and all within them, now in human form, a vulnerable child, laid in a manger for the entire world to behold. Jesus is the face of God, making the invisible God visible. Jesus, human and divine, is the glory of God. Our God is near!

Our first reading tonight speaks to a ‘people who walked in darkness.’ (Isaiah 9:1) How often do we feel that we are walking in darkness? On a global level, there is still war and many areas of unrest. Many people are refugees today, searching not only for a better life – but simply a place where it is safe to live. There is religious persecution – and truth be told, more and more persecution is directed at Christians. Jesus, Mary and Joseph quickly became refugees as a young family, fleeing a tyrant bent on taking the life of the young Savior. How many people today would welcome them? Who today welcomes Jesus by giving shelter and aid to refugees?

On the personal level, we have the normal human struggles; unemployment, struggles regarding uncertainties of personal health or the health of a loved one, parents concerned about the choices of their children, children concerned about aging parents, and the day-to-day stress of fulfilling one’s personal obligations and promises in life. These are just some of the experiences of darkness in our world and lives.

On this Holy Night, we are reminded that ‘a light’; a great light now shines in the darkness.   Think of how Mary felt when the voice of the Angel Gabriel spoke to her, telling her that she was to be the Mother of Jesus. (Luke 1: 26-32) Think how Joseph felt when an angel of the Lord spoke to him in a dream telling him to take his family into Egypt because Herod was searching for them to destroy their child. (Matthew 2:13)   Think of how the shepherds felt when the angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. (Luke 2: 8-14)

These are ‘moments of light’ in human history, by which God brought the ‘good news’ of discernment, direction, and hope to his people. Great as each of those moments were there is still the far greater illuminating brilliance of Jesus’ birth. Jesus is the Light that shines upon those who dwell in the land of gloom. (Isaiah 9: 1) Jesus is the Word of God who is a lamp for our steps, and a light for our path.” (See Psalm 119: 105)

Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds were all fearful when the angel of the Lord appeared to them. They were experiencing real difficulties in their lives, and yet, as people of faith, they were open to allow God to enter into their struggles, shedding his light to guide them. We are not that different from them. Have we the faith that allows us to express our need in the words of the Psalmist who says: “Lord, I am deeply afflicted: by your word give me life. … Though I carry my life in my hands, I remember your law. Though the wicked try to ensnare me I do not stray from your precepts.” (Psalm 119: 107, 109 – 110)

Just as Mary, Joseph and the shepherds accepted in faith the true identity of Jesus, our celebration this Holy Night is meant to renew and express the same faith. We receive with joy the words of the angel again tonight: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2: 10 – 11)

Jesus entered the world as a small child, weak and vulnerable, to enter into the weakness of our world. At the same time, Jesus comes with all the power that is his as the Son of God, to heal the world. He comes with truth and mercy, to forgive us our sins and instruct us in the ways of peace. Let us open our hearts to him. When we are enjoying prosperity and blessings, let us give thanks to him. When we are experiencing trials, doubts and struggles, let us turn to him. The presence of Jesus will illumine the path of our life, the placement of every step, if we but have the wisdom to turn our life over to him.

The instruction of St. Paul to Titus provides us such wisdom: “Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2: 11-14)

So, my friends: Come; let us adore the savior, Christ the Lord. Come; let us walk in the light of Christ, united with him, now and for all eternity.