Sunday, January 1, 2012

Christmas Homily

Christmas is more than a night of wishes; it is a night of hope. I have four hopes on this Christmas night.

I hope that all of us here have had the privilege of, at one time or another, holding an infant child in our arms. I also hope that all of us have not only felt the weight, the warmth, and the movement that speaks of a tiny person but have also encountered the mystery in that baby. The mystery of how the 8 pounds in your arms may some day affect the fates of many in the world, for good or for ill. I remember when I first really encountered the mystery. I was a high school student, holding my cousin Debbie’s first-born daughter, Katie. There is a picture of it, somewhere, my clean-shaven chin, teenage complexion, 1990s glasses, and a Texas A&M ball cap.

Here is a life, a mysterious and helpless life! Mysterious because, though it is known in the mind of God, it is unknown
to ours, as we smell the baby powder and gentle detergents. Helpless because, though it is a life full of promise, it is a life full of peril, a child has no defense of it’s own and is completely at the mercy of others, not just for a moment but for years.

I want you to imagine that helpless mystery for a moment. Perhaps it is your first born child, a brother or sister, anyone. Maybe it was every child you’ve held. Take a moment to relish that mystery and memory with me.

I have another hope. I hope that all of us here have had the privilege of, at one time or another, encountering the majesty of God in creation. Maybe it was the grand spectacle of the Rocky Mountains, the deep power of the ocean tide, or some other wild beauty that was caused by no human hand. I remember the thrill of fishing my dad. It was a rainy Saturday in April, I was in grade school, and we were at Lake Yankton. I was bored and standing off a hundred yards or so when he yelled: “Get the net!” The adrenaline pounded in my veins as I ran and helped land the monster. There’s a picture too, my dad and I at home, holding the fish that we caught.


I knew, in my child’s heart, that there were things in this world bigger than myself. Can you remember a moment of that awe and reverence? Take a moment to relish that mystery and memory with me.In the miracle of Christmas we recall that most unimaginable of surprises. God made these to mysteries meet. Tiny, helplessness and untold future meet majestic grandeur of unfathomable
richness. This is the miracle of Christmas. God, who is mighty beyond all motions on this earth, takes upon the real robes of human flesh, flesh that can starve, bleed, and die.

I have another hope. I hope that this Christmas you will better understand this mystery. I hope that you will answer the invitation of the Church to savor this mystery. We savor good food and good times because we don’t want them to end. We rush through lunch at work but we linger over a Christmas ham. Linger over this mystery now and in the days to come. Think back on the divine meeting of these two fundamental truths. The truth of the mighty and invisible God enrobed in the helpless and visible child. Behold it like Mary, like the shepherds, like Joseph but behold it all the same. In a few moments, as we bless the crèche and whenever you kneel before it, I hope you will relish the mystery.

I have a final hope. I hope that you will understand how this same mighty God has entered into your own soul and flesh. Wonder also how it comes to be, that God, almighty, will enter into your sinful self. We can contemplate a helpless baby; can we contemplate our helpless soul? We can contemplate God in the mighty ocean; can we contemplate God in our baptized soul? In a few minutes more, after you have received Holy Communion, my final hope is that you will relish this mystery of God become man, not just in Bethlehem—the house of bread—but that he might enter under the roof of your soul in the appearance of bread.

I hope.

Cross posted at Pius XII Newman Website

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