Homily – Christmas Eve – 2016

My friends, tonight and throughout the next 12 days of Christmas; we will be celebrating the fact that we are mightily loved by our God.  The birth of Jesus in time is testament to this great love—a God who wanted us to get this one fact and make no mistake about it. How better to do that than to take on our flesh, our human existence, become one of us? When the prophet Isaiah proclaims this truth, great hope comes with the proclamation—“A child is born to us!”—a child for whom the people will expect much; a child who will eventually show us the way to live our lives to the fullest.

As we have talked about throughout the Advent Season; it is all about love—freely given with the intent that this gift will be freely accepted and then shared with all.

The Christmas story is one that touches each of our hearts because it is such a purely human story.  It is good to spend time amid and throughout our Christmas festivities to focus on why we love this time of year so much, to look about our families and friends gathered and see at the heart of it all, the locus of the joy—God-is-with-us!  Because every bit of joy, laughter, fun, merriment, reaching out to others comes directly from the heart of God who made us precisely for this.  Let me say that another way—we, each of us are made to be “Christmas” people—living our human lives as fully as possible as the spiritual people each of us truly is.

I was watching this week, in preparation for this homily—I was watching for the joy.  With a little one in the house, the days are full with the simple, daily discoveries of what is new, interesting and fun—what can be shared with each other, and for me,  it was all encompassed each night as Elliot was prepared for bed by his mom and dad with his last joyful utterance, after all the hugs and blessings for a good night were spoken and shared, “I’ll see you tomorrow!”

Hope springs eternal at Christmas time—somehow it brings out, for the most part, the very best each of us can muster and I believe this is because we are hard-wired for just such goodness.  We show it partially through gift-giving which is ideally the over-flowing of a love that is already present and calls for special expression in this time/season of love.

This past week brought word in our family of a new, first baby for a niece and her husband, of an engagement for a nephew and his now fiancé. I think too of other joy-filled moments that came to my attention—of a 16 year-old young man who has been interested and motivated since he was 10 to reach out to the elderly in nursing homes bringing them letters of joy and caring.  His original interest has grown into a national and world-wide non-profit organization that strives basically to bring anonymous letters of joy to people that he realized in his own city of Cleveland, were being forgotten.  This is being our best!

And of course this season of joy has brought news of that which is less than our best—867 hate incidents in the 10 days after the presidential election—hate crimes that the U.S. Attorney General, Loretta Lynch has said “Stain our dearest ideals and our nation’s very soul.”  Certainly not our best!

We still hear of war around the world, of refugees simply looking for a place to call home, free of fighting, of bombs falling around them.  Again, not our best!

So friends, we see the juxtaposition of the coming of a child of love—which incidentally is true of every child born, each is a child of love—so we have this juxtaposition of a child who calls us to our best, now and always, even though, we as humans,  are capable of bad as well as good.

Christmas calls us to all that love means—the reaching out, the standing up for those who can’t stand for themselves, the giving of tough love at times when the best we have, our children, stray from their best selves, the speaking of a word of truth when the crowd is silent in the face of evil—so much my friends, and more.

The 14th Century monk and theologian, Meister Eckhart was known to have proclaimed, “We all need to be mothers of God, birthing God into our world.” Jesus merely showed us the way to be our best selves and as his followers calls us continually to this quest.  As we celebrate the over-the-top love of our God in sending us Jesus, let us be strengthened and inspired to be his “mothers” in our world, wherever we are and in whatever we are doing.  Come, Jesus come to each of us this night and always!