Christmas 2020

Tonight, we gather to celebrate the birth of a child born 2,000 years ago to poor parents in a stable in the insignificant city of Bethlehem. What is it about this child born so many years ago halfway across the world that has captivated billions of hearts for over 2,000 years? No matter where we find ourselves in life, we seem to come year after year to adore this little child in the manger. Whether we find ourselves close to God or even if we have not stepped foot in a church all year; this year even as we find ourselves in the midst of global pandemic which has touched the lives of everyone. Whether we have lost a loved one to the virus, lost a job, our children’s schooling or social life has been upended; whether we had a joy-filled year or great tragedy befell us this year, there is something magical about Christmas that causes us to put everything aside for one night to come and adore the baby Jesus. What is it about this baby, that caused the shepherds to leave the fields to come and adore him, that inspired rich wise men to leave the comforts of their home to set out on a perilous journey following a star to pay their respects, and even today what brings us to this church to encounter Him once again. Well, of course, the shepherds, the magi, and even us know that the baby we come to adore is no ordinary baby, but God Himself who became a man to enter our lives. Gathering here tonight, we boldly proclaim that nothing, not even a global pandemic can keep the bright light of Christ from shining in our world. In fact, it is precisely in the darkness that Christ’s light can shine all the brighter and so tonight, just for one night, we leave everything, the good and the bad at the door, and allow the magic of Christmas to shine through the darkness of the world around us.

The magic of Christmas reminds us that God does not stand far off. “He is no longer separated from us by the iron curtain of otherworldliness; He has crossed the dividing line to become one of us.”[1] “For Christmas says to us, amid all our doubts and bewilderment: God exists … as one who is able to be concerned about us; He is such that everything we are and do lies open to His gaze.”[2] Christmas reminds us that God is not some power in the sky who created the world only to forget about it or some power who controls us like a master puppeteer. No Christmas proclaims that God became man and walked this earth. He lived in a specific time and place to bring us from slavery to freedom. Tonight, we celebrate the truth that God came down to earth to bring us back to heaven. But do you really believe this? For if we truly believe our lives can never be the same.

Tonight, we celebrate the turning point in history, because the angels proclaim that a savior has been born for us. This is the story our Catholic Church has been handing down uninterrupted for 2,000 years, from those who witnessed it first hand, to the martyrs who died rather than reject it, through the great saints who allowed that story to transform their lives, and here we are today to tell it once again. It is this story which is the reason for our Catholic Church. The story of the Almighty Creator of all things taking to Himself the nature of His lowly creatures. It’s the story of God becoming like us in all things but sin so that we might become like Him. But do you really believe? For if we really believe our lives can never be the same.

For you see, this saving story which began on the first Christmas is not just a story of history. No, that story continues right down to our day. The birth of Jesus changes everything for He came to embrace us, and He invites us to embrace Him. Tonight, as we gather before the manger, Jesus gazes on us and we gaze on Him. As that child gazes on us, He sees a reflection of His own image and wills to save us. He begs us not only to believe Him but to truly follow Him who is “the way, the truth, and the life.”[3] For you see, it makes no sense to profess our faith in the Christ child and then choose not to follow the path he lays out for us in his commandments and teachings. That child laying in the manger is waiting for us to take just one small step towards Him. “The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize He is already there waiting for us with open arms.[4]

So, tonight are you willing to take a risk and take that step towards that innocent child laying in the manger? My friends, if we truly believe that child laying in the manger is truly the Son of God, we cannot leave here unchanged. You see, tonight we come seeking an encounter with God, but “we will know God to the extent that we give Him room to be present in us.”[5] Ultimately each of us is the innkeeper of our own hearts. Will we be like the innkeeper of Bethlehem and cast Him out into the dark cold night or will we open the door of our heart to Him and allow even the darkest area of our heart to be transformed by the power of His love?

Tonight then, as we gaze on the child in the manger and He gazes back at us, we are invited to set out on a lifelong path of rediscovering Him, by starting anew in our relationship with Him. What does that mean for you? What is the next step you need to take towards Him? What is that one resolution you need to make to take that next step in your faith journey? So then tonight, come, let us behold Him, let us come and find Him in the manger and be transformed and then like the shepherds on Christmas night depart and spread the truth that God has come to dwell with us on earth to take us to dwell with Him forever in heaven.

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg. 333

[2] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg. 338.

[3] John 14:6

[4] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. Washington DC: USCCB. (2014) Pg. 1.

[5] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.  Pg. 325.

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