To each and every one of you, a very blessed Christmas. Thank you for your presence here this blessed day.
What is it that so fascinates us about Christmas? Why are we so caught up in preparations for and anticipation of Christmas day? Why is it that people celebrate Christmas even in our very secular world today?
Maybe it’s because there’s something special about babies, especially newborn babies. They are irresistible and adorable. Just ask any new parent or grandparent. So often they’ll say, “What a miracle.” How true and yet, how ordinary, the birth of a child.
Newborns are also so vulnerable and totally dependent. They demand an exhausting amount of attention and help which most parents, family members and especially grandparents are so often willing to provide.
What incredible wonder it is then, that God, the creator of all that is and all that exists for all time comes to us as a newborn babe on Christmas.
The Divine One, whom words cannot fully express, comes as one of us and reveals to us the mystery that he not only comes to us out of love but comes to be “with us” out of love.
Our humanity, our human limitations, could not possibly withstand this incredible in-pouring of divinity if it were not for Jesus being born as a baby, the first impression of God incarnate, so humble, so poor, so week, so needy and yet so irresistible.
Irresistible… Yet babies grow up and as any parent would attest, there are times when their children are far from irresistible.
So then, what do we make of this divine/human mystery of Emmanuel, “God with us?”
In our first reading today and last night, Isaiah the prophet gives us an insight into this mystery for he speaks of glad tidings, good news and salvation to a people who walk in darkness; who dwell in the land of gloom; who feel the yoke and burden of oppression; who experience the rod of their taskmaster; who experience no room for them whatever “inn” they are seeking.
I have been a priest long enough to know that there are burdens some of you are carrying; or sadness you are feeling; or darkness you are experiencing; or hurts that are not healing; or regrets that nag and eat away at you; or fears that keep you awake at night; or stresses that make you ill; or disappointments that make you ask, “What did I do wrong,” or “What more could I have done better?”
Maybe what so fascinates us about Christmas isn’t just a touching story told about the lives of two seemingly mythical figures, Mary and Joseph, but rather the reality of so many young parents, poor parents, oppressed parents who knock on the door of our conscience looking for rest.
Maybe what so fascinates us about Christmas is that “we” are they. We are the ones seeking shelter. We are the ones exhausted from the journey. We are the ones longing and hoping for something more, for someone more who not only understands but also stands under and with us bearing our human burdens.
Maybe what so catches our imagination about Christmas is our deep and for many an almost imperceptible yearning for a Wonder Counselor, God-hero, Father Forever, Prince of Peace and Word made flesh.
Yet all too often in our world today we find petulant leaders who are hungry for power and control; the rich who want more and are insensitive to the needs of those who have so much less; the anger-filled whose abuse verbally, emotionally, sexually and physically damage and destroy the lives of others.
Maybe what so fascinates us about Christmas is the unbelievable reality that God would want to come into the midst of such darkness, brokenness, pain and weakness and dwell with us.
Maybe this is why so many people don’t believe – because somehow they can’t assent to the possibility of so great a love because they themselves have not experienced even a taste of it in their lives.
My sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus, we need to be here today.
We need to come to the stable with the shepherds and kneel at the feet of the infant Jesus and be enfolded in the embrace of Mary and Joseph. So please, spend some time at the crèche after mass, or when you get home gather around the nativity scene in your own home. You may want to pick up the baby Jesus, hold him in your hand and gaze in wonder.
As you do so, look closely at the wood of the manger and then turn and look at the wood of the cross upon which this babe, as grown man, will hang and die to free us from the darkness of sin that surrounds us and give us life, eternal life.
What should so fascinate us about Christmas is that the man Jesus, God’s total, absolute and unconditional incarnate love for us, for you and me is real, is true and conquers all that sin and death can throw at him.
The fascination, the mystery and the power of Christmas is really an invitation into the Paschal mystery of Christ’s victory on the cross, which we celebrate each and every time we gather for Mass. This is why I preach M.A.S.S. over and over again, — make all Sundays sacred.
It is here, at this altar, at the foot of the cross that we gather together in community as sisters and brothers to be nourished by God’s Holy Word and by the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
The true fascination of Christmas is that it is not merely day 348 on the calendar come and gone. Rather it is the ongoing presence of Emmanuel, God with us at each and every moment of our lives whether we recognize it or not.
It is this ever present love of God for us that we strive to make real here at Saint Michael parish. If you have questions about the parish and how you can become more a part of this community of faith, please connect with any of the hospitality folks after mass, as well as the folks with our special Christmas SMP News. Join us for our Alpha program beginning Sunday night January 13 to explore more, seeking to find the deep meaning of life
if any of you feel the need for prayer for whatever reason, I would love to pray with you after Mass. Once I greet the folks on the way out, I will return here to the foot of the altar for prayer. It is a simple gift that I would like to offer on this Christmas day. So just come up and have a seat.
I close with these words from Dr. Suezz: “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags. Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas means a whole lot more.” Amen to that.