Christmas – December 2016

May the peace, love and joy of the child Jesus be with you this Christmas night! We come tonight to sing the beautiful Christmas carols and to listen to the music which touches our hearts with wonder and joy; Silent Night, First Noel, O Come All Ye Faithful. We see the beautiful decorations, the flowers, the Christmas trees. The quiet simplicity of the crib, Mary and Joseph and a newborn baby lying in the manger; what does this scene say to us? What do we say to this scene?  Pope Francis in his Encyclical Letter, “Laudate Si”, tells us that this scene awakens in us the awareness of God.

We pray for many gifts; but, do we take time to notice the gift of the Christ child? We marvel at the gifts of the world, but fail to notice them as gifts of God. We wonder and question God in our lives, but fail to see His real and greatest gift; the gift of the Christ child . . . a baby born into simplicity and humility in a stable in Bethlehem; Son of God and the Savior of the world.

What is this Christmas scene saying to you and to me? God is offering us a tiny baby, to be taken into our lives. This tiny child can teach us how to live and grow in our faith. Christmas is about the Christ child; but not the Christ of rules and regulations; of do’s and don’ts. The Christ who was born for you and for me simply asks you to love Him. Christ comes to each one of us gift wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. We are being asked to take Him into our lives. Pope Francis calls this action the key to our relationship with God.

There is always the danger of taking the Christmas message for granted. We have become too familiar with the Christmas story. We know the hymns and carols; we know the Nativity story; we know Joseph and Mary. But do we know the Christ Child and His message for you and me? Where and how can this message be explored? Tonight you get to re-experience in word and music this simple story of the Child born in a stable. Do we give ourselves an opportunity to reflect and pray to welcome the Christ Child into our lives? Tonight is not the only time and place that you are given this opportunity to welcome God into your life. Every time we encounter Goodness, Beauty and Truth in our lives, God is revealing some small glimpse of Himself.

Last year I was in the Dominican Republic visiting our Mission. I encountered God in the beauty of His creation. I had just finished Mass and the people were standing around chatting outside the church. I was talking to a young mother with two children and a new born baby in her arms. Suddenly she thrusts the baby into my arms and went off chasing her other two children. I was in shock for a moment but then I focused on the baby in my arms. The baby was smiling up at me with her hands moving. I began to examine the baby – how beautiful and perfect every detail of her little hands, the wrinkles on her knuckles, her eyes and her eye lashes – everything was just beautiful and perfect. It was in those few seconds as I held the baby in my arms that I begin to see not only her beauty, but how incredible God is in creating each and every one of us. God shares the power of creation, of new life with every husband and wife.

In another encounter, a priest friend of mine told me of one of his Christmas homilies. He was speaking of the meaning of life and its gifts; after Mass a young man waited to speak to him. “Father,” the young man said, “I came to church tonight with my life in a mess so much so I considered ending it. But you gave me hope to trust in God because I need to know the truth. We are all given opportunities to see God in a whole new way. We must never neglect or ignore the opportunity to explore and reflect on the deeper meanings of life. Otherwise we neglect or take life for granted. Life is a gift from God to each one of us.

Tonight we are given another opportunity to encounter and explore God’s mystery in our lives.  God reveals Jesus to us in simplicity and humility; a baby born in a stable in Bethlehem. Who cannot resist taking a new born baby in your arms?  This baby can reveal and teach us so much about life.  Let us not lose this opportunity to grow in our faith. Remember the angels sang, Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace to those of His good will.