Homily – Christmas Eve in a Time of Pandemic

Dear Friends, my best wishes for each of you on this cold Christmas morning in Minnesota–something like minus 2 below! We met as a community last evening for a Zoom Mass and if I recalled everyone present, it was 32! We celebrated the over-the-top love of our God in sending us our brother and friend, Jesus, the Christ! We prayed for those of you who couldn’t be with us and send you greetings of peace, love and joy! Thank you to all of you who could join us last evening –it was a special time! Below, find my homily. Stay safe and well and hopefully our next Christmas liturgy can be in person! Please call, 507-429-3616 or email, aaorcc2008@gmail.com if I can be of help to you. Peace and love, Pastor Kathy

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My friends, as Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew Fred in the beloved, Christmas Carol is fond of saying and I paraphrase, “I like to think of Christmas, when it comes around each year as a good and kindly time, when people open up their closed hearts, even for a while…”

   The Scriptures for this Christmas Eve liturgy, just read for us speak to this sentiment beginning with the prophet, Isaiah, who proclaims that, “The people walking in darkness are seeing a brilliant light.” He continues, “God, you have made the nation greater—you have brought them abundant joy.”  Paul, in his letter to Titus is speaking of the Incarnation and says, “The grace of God has appeared!”  And finally from Luke in tonight’s gospel, we hear from the angels to the lowly shepherds, [we bring you] “news of a great joy to be shared by the whole people.”  The angels’ greeting was prefaced, and this is important, by the words, “Do not be afraid!” This is important because whenever God is present; we can know and trust that whatever else happens, “fear” will be done away with! 

   In addition to that, going back to Paul’s words to Titus, “The grace of God has appeared,” we must remember that “grace” is that fancy spiritual word simply meaning that the “divine” has come into our midst to show us how to respond in our human natures with the Divine that is truly ours as well.  In fact, our whole human journey is an invitation, from our God to respond to that which is best in each one of us.  And that is why Fred’s comments touch most of us so deeply—to in fact, “open up our closed hearts,” because we were made for precisely, this!

  Sister Joan Chittister says, “Only Christianity, of all the religions, argues that the Creator has taken on the flesh and blood of creation in order to bring us to [in fact] assert the divine in ourselves,” or as I often tell you, “the best that each of us has to offer!”  The poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning says of it, “Earth is crammed with heaven!” 

   The Vatican is trying to make this same statement with the unique Crèche it has on display in the courtyard this year, depicting God’s Incarnation among us in present day and time.  This new Crèche has astronauts and other “every day” people showing up at the Nativity scene and in effect, making the statement that any and all of created life is welcome here because Jesus came for all of us—to shed light in our darkness, to raise each of us up—to say as the Creator once did, “It is good!”–it is all very good!

    The feast of Christmas is about living in the present.  This is what Francis of Assisi had in mind when he established the first crèche and it was a living crèche—he brought in real, live people to enact this grace, this joy of our God choosing to come among us! 

   Most Christian families set up Christmas cribs each year and the real purpose and meaning behind that should be for us to remember, and to never forget this great grace bestowed upon all of us.  And really, this is just our starting place—first, to remember, but then, to follow—to do likewise as our brother Jesus did. 

   In Joan Chittister’s Christmas column this week, she says of it—“We must realize, [to come and see] where there are no lights and take some there:  to hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons—to dark neighborhoods.” 

   This year, amid the dangers of COVID, we have had to curtail our visits to many of these places where we might have, hopefully, brought, “light.”   One of the perhaps good things of this time of pandemic, which no one could have anticipated, is that it has, in the wake of this virus, called us to be inventive—doing our best, through Zoom meetings and Masses, family gatherings through many, on-line avenues, to keep in touch and “light” some dark places. 

   I will share just one that I became aware of recently through my affiliation as a Cojourner with the Rochester Franciscans.  One of the Sisters invited us to send a Christmas greeting to a prisoner in the State that she has been in regular contact with before COVID took over our lives, collectively. Many of us agreed to do this and in part it is about, as Paul says to Titus in tonight’s 2nd reading, [when we choose to follow Jesus’ light, we become] “eager to do what is right.” 

   And friends, if we can do that, then the Christmas story will not be something that we simply, remember, but something that we live out, today and every day!  Amen? Amen!