A special welcome to all of those who were visitors to our parishes. Whether family members of our parishioners, travelers or folks who simply found themselves at our parishes for Christmas, I am especially grateful! Thank you for joining us in celebration of Christ’s birth.
I’d like to take a little time in our reflection on the mystery of the Nativity to speak on sin. Although I’m sure none of you really came today to dwell on sin and death (and no one here is a sinner, right? ), it is a reality worthy of some consideration.
We know how sin entered the world. Not much reminder is needed of the fall of Adam and Eve and their ejection from the Garden of Eden. Ultimate it was about free will and the choice away from God and towards evil. Moreover, we know that sin is still here. We see it in the choices of others, whether it is in the sins that hurt others or us. Often the separations in our lives from loved ones and friends start with a simple sin. Sin is apparent in the violence inflicted by one against another. And of course the wages of sin is death, which we know all too well.
The reality of our lives is that we can see sin in most aspects of our lives, whether in the mirror or around us in the world. Each of us carries not only the crosses of our suffering in life, but the wounds of our sins and those of others. And seeing that sin, we are acutely aware of how overwhelming it is, how powerless we are against it.
What is the over-riding feeling that comes from gazing upon sin, others and our own? I submit that it is often loneliness. Loneliness both as a result and a source of sin – a closed circle around ourselves that often results in despair – thinking we’ll never be forgiven and that we’re on our own – or presumption – thinking that we’re on our own, so what does sinning more matter.
….you may need a little extra of that spiced eggnog for a Merry Christmas after this homily, huh?
I imagine many of you are familiar with Seattle Children’s Hospital – a medical center that focuses exclusively on minors who are suffering serious illnesses. About the middle of this last year, Children’s was featured in a neat music video. It was put together by one of the patients and it featured many of the children from the cancer section along with some of their nurses. It was put to Kelly Clarkson’s song ‘Stronger’ (never knew in seminary that I’d be referencing pop singers at Mass!)
The point of the video was pretty straightforward: solidarity. A group of kids with cancer, their families and those who cared for them standing together. And what message do we need to hear more than this? That we are not alone.
The Nativity is about God’s saving work for humanity, about the forgiveness of sins and the repairing of a broken world. God could have done that in so many ways – snapping His fingers, declaring us forgiven and fixing everything. Instead He chose to send His only Son, to become one of us, to share in our vulnerability, to live with us in a world of sin, to carry His own cross and ultimately to die and rise again for our salvation. This is not some distant, uninterested being working from afar – this is God with us, Emmanuel.
And He has given us this night, this beginning of Christ’s work of salvation, as a sign that we are not alone.
Imagine what we could accomplish with Christ, if we stayed as close to Him as He has come to us! We have all taken the time to gather here to celebrate His birth, to support each other in celebration, reaching out to our friends and family, living – even if only for today – in fellowship with as many as possible. What if every day was like Christmas?
Even today, sorrows and suffering have not left us. But the realization of Christ’s presence not only keeps us from despair, but brings us to joy! Even before Christ’s work is finished in the world, we begin to realize its fruits.
We are not alone! May this realization of Christ’s birth be ours throughout our lives, that we may not only know joy but bring that knowledge and faith to others – so that one day we may finally see the culmination of what has started tonight: our reunion with Christ in heaven.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas to us all!