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Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas (homily)

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. It is the great mystery and wonderful sacrament that the world should meet the new-born Lord lying in a manger. While it remains a mystery, a special quality exists that we cannot articulate that keeps us very quiet and thankful. It stops us and takes our breath away.  
Tonight, we do our best 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. None. No one. Even those who think they are unlovable or irredeemable. The family’s black sheep? Loved in a special way. God remembers us. We will not give up on each other. It is a moment to realize that we give the mysterious peace of Christ to others through our goodwill. Do all that is possible to lengthen the good spirit of this day. After a long year, you deserve to receive goodwill and to savor it. 
         Speaking of amazement and wonder, we are glad to see the church filled with friends and family. This very church has contained prayers for so many of you throughout this past year. Rest assured that a loved one has offered your name in prayer to God for special care this year. You have remained a part of our community. I’m very happy you are here, most importantly before Christ who wants to give himself to you as a gift.  
         For those of you who are returning, welcome home. It is good to have you back. For those who are visiting, this is your home as well. I hope you come back. This parish is fortunate to have an attentive pastor and a helpful staff, and we have a Pope who is working diligently behind the scenes to make our church a community where Christ’s love is authentically given to everyone who needs it. We all need it. Our church is going through deep challenges, and the road forward may become even darker and more confusing before it becomes a welcoming place that is known for its mercy once again, but Christ is present and is doing his work to transform it. So, please, gives us a chance. 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 and 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 of compassionate people who radically cares for each other as brother and sister. We are given to each other as gifts to enjoy.       
         As you well know, life is often a challenge with pain, suffering and disappointment. 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 that life is a mess and 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 reality of the Christ child who penetrates to a quiet place deep within ourselves to bring us to a calm stillness.
         Pope Francis preaches the necessity of mercy over rules and teachings. Mercy is entering into the chaos of another person, and this is precisely what the Christ child does for us. He is born into our broken human family so that we might have a brother, a God, who understands what we go through. 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.
         Hear 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. Today is God’s gift to us. He gives us his 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 is more joyful when we walk forward together. With the angels we can sing out together: Gloria in excelsis Deo. Merry Christmas.

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