CHRISTMAS HOMILY 2016
Our celebration tonight once again draws the world’s attention to the humility and love of God. In our American language, we call this celebration Christmas, (Christ Mass) while many other languages speak directly to the true focus; the birth of Jesus, such as Feliz Navidad, or Buon Natale! The birth of Jesus … The birth of God … The birth of a Savior.
This holy night, this moment in salvation history has so much to teach our world today. Our God is not distant. Our God is very near, and he comes in humility and with love. God who created the universe, now dares to be born in time, born of a virgin, born in human flesh, coming in the weakness and dependence of a new-born child. He comes as pure gift, not imposing himself upon anyone, but present to all who would receive him.
Jesus is entrusted to Mary & Joseph who are homeless, as part of a family that will soon be fleeing for their lives due to an unjust persecution of a tyrant king. Jesus is born outside a small village, a place with little or no worldly significance. Jesus, the Bread of Life is laid in a manger, where animals feed. The Child of God wrapped in swaddling clothes comes to make our soiled garment spotless; to enrich our humanity with the glamor of his divinity. Jesus who is Light from Light, whose place of birth is illuminated by a brilliant star is born into a world of darkness to bring forth the eternal Light. Jesus who is Eternal Truth is revealed to wise men that we may know where to find true wisdom. He who is the Good Shepherd is announced to the humble shepherds who keep watch over their flocks. He who is the Prince of Peace comes with peace for all men and women of good will. He who is from the Father, is born upon the earth and heralded by the angels in heaven. He who has no place to lay his head comes in search of us that we may find our true home in him. He who is the Gift from heaven is born to those who have the humility and wisdom to receive such a gift. He who is Love comes with love beyond all telling.
So, what is the significance of all of this for us? It seems the way God chose to enter the world is the way we are to receive him; with humility, love, and by making a gift of our lives to others.
Humility, love and self-gift.
When we live humbly, we open wide the doors to Christ, who opens wide his heart to us. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has an entrance that is very low and small so that the only way to enter the church is to bend low. Is this not a proper posture for approaching the Word made Flesh? If He who is God can be so humble as to take on our human condition, surely we are called to such humility in our relationship with God AND with one another. He who is clearly the greatest of all came to serve, not to be served. How can we in our true lowliness not be as humble and generous in all our relationships? Our greatness is likewise found in humble service.
When we have received the unmerited and unconditional love of God, how can we not share this love unconditionally with others, particularly those who need our understanding, love and compassion? When we who have sinned know the loving gaze and mercy of Jesus, how could we dare to be judgmental and divisive in any fashion? The God who loves us first invites us to be the first to love here upon earth.
When God created the world, and everything in the heavens and upon the earth and under the earth saw how sinful humanity was defacing the beauty of his handiwork, he responded with the tremendous gift of his only Son, who came into the world “not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) Jesus comes with justice and power, with love and mercy, with healing and peace. Jesus sends us into the world to have the same mentality and mission.
When the human family lives in humility and love, these gifts of God are ours. However, these gifts of God are illusive when we fail to love and are puffed up with pride.
When we make a gift of our self to others, the gifts of God are ours, and the Kingdom of God is close at hand.
Is your life not going quite as well as you would like? Are things not working out as you had planned? Just remember this: The world falls short of God’s desire, yet God’s love provides a way for us to reach his Kingdom. Mary was shocked at God’s plan for her life, yet she availed herself to his plan of salvation. Joseph certainly had other plans, but he surrendered to the mystery of God. As for Jesus, we simply know he humbled himself to come down to earth as well as to the cross, and God raised him and us along with him to eternal life.
So, my friends, this holy night, the world once again dares to dream the dream of God, that we can live in peace and harmony, as the one family of God. On this holy night, the human family hopes once again that the gifts of God can be ours.
Let us this holy night with humility and love accept the precious gift given by God, the gift of his only Son, Jesus Christ. Let us also recall that gifts are given to be received, and the greatest gifts are meant to be shared. Let us resolve every day to live with Christ, and make a similar gift of our life to share his love with the world.