Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Homily

           It all began just a few miles from here, in an obscure town called Bethlehem, the town of David, on the West Bank of the Jordan River. God so loved the peoples of this world that God decided to dwell among us though he knew the world would reject him. Sometimes it is hard to comprehend why God loves us so much when we do mean things to one another, but thus begins the story of making oneself vulnerable by doing good and teaching well despite the ever-present opposition. The man who became the savior of the world was born for us and redeemed this very land upon which we both walked and he brought hope to every generation in our human history.
            The story of Christmas tells us that God speaks through goodness and gentleness. It is the only thing that can penetrate our heartaches. Life hurts too much at times and we need the tenderness that only God provides. Just watching Mary and Joseph care for their son so sweetly is a reminder of the tender way God deals with our pains. God holds us in the same way Joseph and Mary caress Jesus to sleep. We hasten to the manger scene to see the newborn child resting comfortably. It reassures us that we are safe in God’s presence and that God values everything that is good and holy. We want to retain those impressions of innocence and we want God to look upon us with the same happiness we feel toward this tiny child.
            Sitting in Mass this morning, I took in and absorbed each of the fourteen parishioners who came to Mass. Melodic Christmas carols solemnly played in the background to set a reflective tone. Most of them closed their eyes gently in prayer and they seemed to be at peace. I thought about each one of them as they experience the presence of God and I marveled at them as gift to one another. Stillness filled my heart as if I were gazing upon the tiny child Jesus laid to rest in a manger.  My heart became very warm as I knew God’s love was reaching each of them – and me – and it made me love them even more than I did before. God’s radiating love is what comes through at Christmas. It can’t be explained, but we know God is present when our capacity to love is increased.
            I ask you to connect with one another – in silence – to see the love that God has planted it them – friend, neighbor, or stranger. Just look at one another and smile and appreciate how much God is calling them to do their very best. (Turn to one another, hold your gaze, and without words, just smile.) This is the same love Jesus gave us at the manger when he notices us. This is the love he wants us to share as believers in God. This is the love that makes the world good, gentle, and tender. This is the love that alerts all our senses to help us realize how near God is to us.

            Let your heart be moved and your senses awakened. Love the one you are with, even if you don’t like that person too much. Let your heart reach out and love them because that is what this tiny infant wants us to do. Our love is given to us to be used copiously, generously, as fully as we can. Give it away as much as you can. You will experience Christmas every day when that abundant gentleness and tenderness is returned unexpectedly. We will know with absolute certainty that God has visited his people and has redeemed us. Our Savior has been born into our world. Today, true peace has come down to us from heaven. Our Wondrous God, the Prince of peace, will reign without end.