December 25, 2021
Perhaps, you would think that it should be very easy to give a homily on Christmas Day, but it isn’t for a priest. Why? Because there is so much to talk about or because everything is like a distraction and blur. Like we worry over saying something that is meaningful and that is inspiring. Frankly, like many of you, and as I have been doing so many other things for others these days, I have received little time for inspiration to say very much.
I finished writing that sentence Thursday morning, and the inspiration came to me that visiting others, that preparing four Christmas dinners for nephews and great nieces and their husbands, and greeting friends dropping in one after the other was the homily. Then, I was reading an article by someone else about her own frustration about trying to create a perfect Christmas, which always ended in tears, only for her to conclude, that in the end, Christmas is about loving people. Let me repeat that – Christmas is about loving people! She ended with these words – “The best gift you could give people is to love them like you might not get a chance tomorrow.”
Let me be frank, the Christmas holiday seasons stir up a lot of “shit” for many people – the experience of alcohol, family messes, family dysfunctions, frightening experiences, expressions of anger and fear.
Then, we hear the soothing words of the Prophet Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone… you have brought them abundant joy.”
Today is a day “to see the light,” to put unhappy and sad pasts behind, to reach out for the Star of Bethlehem, to take the hand of Jesus, to take a new way to go, to open our lives to God’s love as presented to us in the lives and the outreaching hearts of others.
At the heart of all the prophets whom we have read this last Advent season is the light and hope that always shined in the middle of the worst evils and calamities experienced in the history of Israel. There was always a word of promise like today: “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us…” The people put such great hope in their kings. They were called “Wonder Counselor,” “God-hero”, “Father Forever,” “Prince of Peace.” The birth of a child was a moment of great hope, for a better society, for a better people, for a walk out of darkness into light.
Unfortunately, we create results and ways of thinking and living that imprison us in the darkness. Hopefully, we can see ourselves spiraling slowly upward and outward from what is our prison of darkness.
St. Paul reminds us today that the new grace that we have received from God is a training process “to put the godless ways behind and all the worldly desires that captivate us, in order to walk temperately, justly, and devoutly.” – that is how we translate God and life into action. We are on our way, brothers and sisters, always open to an appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ. Christmas should inspire us “to be eager to do what is good,” St. Paul reminds us.
Can we lock that into our consciousness, put that in our deepest desire, take that guiding light and presence of Jesus to really work for us in our lives?
A couple of weeks ago, along with my sister and cousin, we went to see the movie “Christmas with the Chosen.” “The Chosen” [is] a TV drama series based on the life of Jesus of Nazareth [produced] by the American filmmaker, Dallas Jenkins. His purpose is to show Jesus in a way that is most intimate, personal and immediate.
The movie was well done, thoughtful, provocative, and engaging. One of the actor-commentators spoke about his own coming to believe in the Incarnation of God in our historical times. One insight that he shared captured my attention. He said my parents and my church told me the story of Christmas many times. He said that he heard it but did not accept it until the story became his story.
Today, we have just heard the story once again, a story that took place in a moment of historical time and place, in Bethlehem. There was no hospital or hotel, only fellow animals in a stable/barn. It was a natural childbirth, and all the messiness that comes with that – and then, a sweet, beautiful child. All of us were once a sweet, beautiful child, and then we have to discover and to live the rest of our lives. So where are you? God had a dream for Jesus’ life. Do you have a dream for yours? Are you and Jesus figuring that out together? Even we have to figure it out!
Then, there were a group of shepherds doing what shepherds do, if bored… a little poaching and stealing. They were the first to experience a goodness and a love [that] they probably never experienced before and changed their lives. In those days, shepherds lived on the margins of society. What would you do if all of a sudden, an angel appeared to you? There is someone here who wants to see you, the angel says. There is an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. That there was an explosion of light and peacefulness. That was the beginning.
Who needs an explosion of light and peacefulness? Will it happen today? Yes, somewhere, in some places it will happen. If it can happen to a nonchalant group of shepherds, it can happen to anyone. Have you ever imagined what the shepherds did when they went back to their fields? Did they share their experience with other shepherds or their families? Whatever happened to them? How did they live the rest of their lives?
So today, and as you go into your tomorrow, how will we live the rest of our lives? We can ask God for an explosion of light and peacefulness. It may come quickly or gradually. Then who will we become and what will we do? You and I have to write the end of our story!