Again, my apologies for the lateness of sending this homily–I managed to pick up a “bug” and was in bed pretty much for Christmas Day–ugh! But my family took wonderful care of me and our Christmas celebration moved ahead with a few changes.
Again, my wish for each of you is that the peace, love and joy that Jesus brings will be with you all now this Christmas and always!
As always friends; we begin this Christmas Eve homily as with all homilies by looking at the Scriptures—they are the best source for the truth that God wants us to know. The prophet Isaiah has sent his timeless message through the centuries that we heard tonight as followers of Jesus have heard on every Christmas past and will into the future, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!” Our brother, Martin Luther King, Jr. was known to have said, “Darkness cannot put out darkness, only light can do that!”
So, we must heed the words of these prophets, Isaiah and Martin on this glorious night in order that we might keep our eyes on Jesus, always and forever. Perhaps that is what is at the heart of all the woes within our beloved Catholic church today—that our leaders lost sight of his message of unselfish love and care for others.
Isaiah continues, “A child is born to us.” Recall with me the birth or births of children in your lives, whether you physically gave birth or not, perhaps a nephew or niece or friend’s child. Remember the great hope you felt and still feel in the potential of those children, the goodness you saw at their births, that you still see as you watch them grow.
Paul in his writing to Titus, that we just read, spoke simply, the truth, “The grace of God has appeared!” Is not every birth the grace of God? Yes! And for that reason; we need to lose the theology within our Church that speaks of this “grace” as “sin.” Whenever and wherever a birth happens there is new hope, “original blessing,” not “sin!
Luke proclaims why we are joyful tonight—“the angel said, “You have nothing to fear!” God to Bethlehem, that little backwater town, insignificant really in the history of the world—but there you will find the “grace of God,” “an infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” The shepherds were told that this would be their sign that indeed they had found something very special!
We cannot miss the point of that first Christmas friends, because it is the point of each Christmas! The “grace of God” will be found in simplicity, in beauty, in goodness—all around us—we don’t have to look far!
I love a good story and I think you do as well, because it is often through stories that we can hear spiritual truths that we otherwise might miss. This story some may have heard before, but it is one of the truly good stories that speaks so well what our God’s purpose was in the Incarnation. So whether you have heard it before, or this is the first time, hear it tonight in a new way.
There once was a shoeshine man named Sam who worked the same corner in his little stand for almost 50 years now. He hated his job. He didn’t mind the weather conditions so much; the hot of summer, the cold of winter—he made enough to live on, the YMCA had good beds and his friend Cal, had good chili at the corner diner. No, what he really hated was how people looked on him, or maybe more accurately, was how he looked on himself.
One cold December day while he was shining a customer’s shoes, a little girl appeared at this stand—she was standing near the space heater Sam kept to warm himself and his customers. The little girl kept looking at him until he jokingly told her to scram, she was bothering him. She said, “I’ve come to grant you a wish.” “A wish huh?” The man whose shoes Sam was shining looked up from the paper he was reading and said, “You talking to me Sammy?” Sam replied, “No, I was talking to this little kid.” The man looked around, “What kid, Sammy?” She of course had disappeared and Sam thought perhaps his mind was playing tricks on him.
A few moments later, Sam heard the girl’s voice again and now; she was standing next to him, whispering in his ear. This time he played along thinking that his friend Cal at the diner was playing a trick on him. Sam said, “Okay, I’d like to be the richest man in the world.”
Immediately, Sam found himself caught up in something like a whirlwind and he was transported to a grand house—he suddenly had everything materially imaginable. He couldn’t believe his good fortune! He could now truly enjoy life and he did! But after a few months; this got old—something seemed to be missing and he realized that having things didn’t really make much difference—the world hadn’t changed any—still, no one listened to him. So, he called in the little girl who he had kept her on as an advisor.
Sam told her that he wanted power—he wanted to be the most powerful man on earth. That was a pretty big order—she said she needed to ask her supervisor, but after a bit she returned, snapped her fingers and Sam now became, King Samuel! The world now functioned at his command—wars began and ended at his word. He now not only had enormous wealth, but absolute power.
One day he was out about town with his entourage and he heard singing—it was coming from a church. He entered and asked an old woman at the back what was going on. “Why your majesty; they are praying.” Now thinking that they were praying to him, but needing to hear her say it, Sam asked, “Whom are they praying to?” The old woman became very quiet and responded, “Majesty, they are praying to God!”
The king could hardly believe his ears! He stormed out of the church and with his entire entourage, returned to the castle. He called in the little girl and raged at her, “I thought I was the most powerful person on earth, but my subjects are praying to one more powerful than me. So, I want you to make me God.” –PAUSE- She asked if he was sure and Sam replied, “Make me as God would appear if God came to earth.” This time she didn’t have to ask anyone, just snapped her fingers and Sam was back at his shoe shine stand.
Friends, throughout Advent we have reflected on the wonder and mystery of our God electing to come and have a human experience with us and it is unbelievable really, when you think about it—that God would love us this much! Christmas is all about love and joy expressed—God could think of no other way of letting us know how much we are loved, then to come into our midst, to be one of us, and with us. It is the love that brings “light” to our darkness. And Christmas and Jesus’ coming among us only makes sense if we then do as he did in our lives here. His coming among us isn’t about “the cross” as some like to remind us this time of year—but about the love, the life well-lived in our brother, Jesus’ footsteps.
Meister Eckhart, a Dominican theologian who lived 600 years ago in Paris says it well I think: “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the Son of God [all those years ago] and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and culture? We are all meant to be mothers of God. God is always needing to be born,” [Bolding mine] to dispel the darkness with our light; the light of our goodness, love, mercy and care for people and our world.
May our good, gracious and merciful God who gave us our brother Jesus bless us all in the task of Christmas today, to bear Jesus again and again—in our world, to see, perhaps as Sam eventually did, that God resides now, here, where each of us lives and works, making all that we do, good, in that light. If not here, than not at all!
Amen? Amen! Merry Christmas!