Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Day

The nativity story, though we hear it year after year, fills us with wonder as God is born to us as a vulnerable child. We gaze upon the manger in amazement because we know deep down in our hearts that God did this personally for us. While it is a mystery, a special quality exists that we cannot articulate that keeps us very quiet and thankful. Tonight(Today), we have to do all we can to hold onto that wonder and amazement because these memories will sustain us and feed our hope. It is a special moment to realize God really does dwell among us and that none of us is forgotten. It is a time when we realize that the peace of Christ is given to others through our goodwill. Do all that you can to lengthen the good times of this day. You deserve it.

Speaking of amazement and wonder, we are glad to see the church filled with friends and family. This church has contained prayers for so many of you throughout this past year. You can bet that a loved one has offered your name in prayer to God for special care this year. I’m so happy you are here before Christ who wants to give himself to you as a gift. For those of you who are returning, welcome home. For those who are visiting, this is your home as well. I hope you come back. We have a very caring Pope who promises to make our church a community where Christ’s love is authentically given to everyone who needs it. We all need it. So, please, consider making our church, wherever you live, your community of faith. We have so much to explore together. Learn to see it with positive regard. See the goodness that it is trying to bring forth. We need church to be, not a building or an administrative organization, but a community of faith that radically cares for each other as brother and sister. We are given to each other as gifts to enjoy.

You know, we need each other because life is often a challenge. People often say that Christmas is for children, but that is only partly true. Christmas is more for adults because there comes a certain point in our life when we recognize we need a Savior. Adults need Christmas more than children because we realize things are most out of control and we can’t save anyone. The illnesses and hardships that become part of our daily life are beyond our control and we are powerless before them. Only Christ can give meaning to the suffering we face. Only Christ can tend and heal our wounds. Only Christ can reconcile. Only Christ’s mercy that is shown through our actions can touch our deepest prayers, much like the Christ child penetrate to a quiet place deep within ourselves to bring us to a calm stillness.

Our beloved Pope Francis just inaugurated the Year of Mercy. Mercy is defined as entering into the chaos of another, and this is precisely what the Christ child does for us. He is born into our human family so that we might have a brother who understands. He will teach us that being merciful is messy; that compassion heals, reconciles, and binds us together. Our isolation is over when we allow someone else to reach into our chaos and still find us lovable. My prayer for you is that you experience the love of God often this year as you make yourself vulnerable enough to be loved without regard for what you’ve said or done. All of that is over now. Christ has been born to us. A son has been given. Step forward onto this journey to the heart of God. We, your church, will stand here with open arms to walk on this journey with you. Listen to our invitation. Listen to our prayer for you. You are part of our community of faith and we are enriched by your presence and the promise of your presence. The Church needs the same sort of healing and reconciliation that we as individuals do. Be a part of that change. Pope Francis is inching us forward and it is exciting. See what love God has for you. This is our Year of Mercy. Come. Just come! Don’t look back. Let’s go forward – onwards and upwards – to this new day with Christ growing more fully within us each day. It will be much more joyful when we walk forward together.