Homily Within the Octave of Christmas
Updated: Jan 2
Mass During The Night Isaiah 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Mass During The Day Isaiah 9:1-6; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
Saint John Baptist de la Salle December 24 & 25, 2022
A few years ago, now, I traveled to Macallan, Texas, to see for myself, and to try to understand, what was taking place at our Southern border. While I was there, I spent several days trying to help at the Catholic Charities Agency. I spoke with a young couple from Honduras, whose wife had just given birth. They had left their country at the beginning of her pregnancy, without almost nothing. After traveling by train, horseback, and walking, they had arrived at a border crossing just before their child was to be born. Fortunately, Catholic Charities had been helping thousands or refugees from Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, and Honduras, for some years now, right in that area. This couple was welcomed by them, taken to a small clinic where she had a safe delivery. Jesus is born.
The story read (last night) tonight, from Luke's Gospel, is of Joseph and Mary desperate for to find a place to welcome the birth of their child. Not only do we know this story, we can see a picture of it, if we but close our eyes. The image we see has been created in millions of Nativity scenes, inside and outside our homes, Churches and even in public places. Mary gazing at and adoring her baby; in a perfect little manger filled with nice clean hay; Joseph standing guard; the stable animals and shepherds standing not too far away. Hmm, somehow, I doubt the first Christmas looked much like that. Like the couple I meet from Honduras, Joseph and Mary were migrants too. They were far from their hometown, traveling with many strangers. They are a very poor family who had been on a long journey with much uncertainty as to how they will ever be able to manage or get by.
Mary, especially, would have been exhausted from the long journey to Bethlehem, the repeated rejection of no place to stay, her anxious hours of labor pains on a cold dark night Then, Jesus is born. The Gospels don't tell us of a stable, just a manger, where noisy, smelly animals were fed Jesus, Immanuel, God among us, lies in a food trough; no one saw this coming
Not quite the way we picture it in our minds, is it? But what a great image to help us ponder the mystery of the Incarnation and its meaning. Jesus is born. In John's Gospel, which we read tomorrow, (today), tells us that, in the birth of Jesus, we have seen God's glory. What the Nativity story shows us is that it is not in majesty and perfection that we see the glory of God. No, our God is seen in the chaos and poverty of ordinary human life. We have all been poor these past few years. Few thought the world was in for a pandemic when 2020 began. In one way it has not spared anyone. We have all, rich and poor, been affected; it has made us all poor together, yet: Jesus is born. At this point in our story the angel speaks to poor shepherds, but not to Mary. Mary could have used an angels help, as her birth pains grew sharper, but she was really one angel short. Isn't that true for all of us, at the many desperate moments of our life? We are always just one angel short, which is where our faith comes in. Mary like us, is left to think about all of this in her heart. Jesus is born. Christmas opens our eyes: it is not about the gifts; it is about seeing things differently at the end of the year; seeing people differently; seeing ourselves differently. And what a year we have seen. Seeing God differently in a baby, in our poverty, in the rejected, and in the sick. Seeing ourselves differently in the image of a child we can have hope for our future. The birth of a small poor child repeats itself today in so many ways and in so many places. So, this Christmas tell your story, it's the same as mine, and then go tell others: Jesus is born.
No one who is here today does not know why they have come. At Christmas, we celebrate the God who comes to us as a light in our darkness. Our hearts are filled with gratitude, we welcome that light into our lives today. Like those shepherds some two thousand years ago we want to see what's going on. What the shepherds found we too hope to discover. Temoc Herrejon is not here this morning because his daughter is about to give birth. I have not heard yet, if her child has been born, but I am filled with joy and expectation of what is about to come. Anyone who has seen a newborn child, knows that the infant will be, without competition, the center of attention. Everyone will be competing to get a look at the child and a chance to hold the baby. There is just something about a newborn child, held in the arms of their mother, that draws us in. Moreover, in the presence of a newborn, people will forget their differences, arguments will be postponed till later, and peace will tend to break out. Our God came to us as a little child, as a helpless baby, precisely to get our attention. For centuries God had been sending prophets, priests and kings to his people, hoping to bring his people back to faith and trust in him. Yet everything God had done, all these efforts, met with, to say the least, mixed success. But who can resist a baby? God became so small that we were able, even eager, to hold him in our arms. This very act of caring for the helpless Creator brought out what is most compassionate and merciful in us. And so it is, with great joy that we, two thousand years later, take in the angel's message to the shepherds: This will be a sign for you: You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.
Back now to reality we go today, back to school and work and getting people ready for school and work, back to our routine after weeks of whirlwind activities and joy, and stress, and tension, and wonder. Our regular routine is back, and sometimes it seems to come to us with a thud. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that God is with us in the small things that will happen today, just as much as God was with us at Thanksgiving, throughout Advent, on Christmas Day, and on the Epiphany. God's desire that we grow in love and obedience has no season, no calendar. Go gently into that reality knowing that you are blessed. Love and Prayers, Fr. John