Holy Christmas to you all! This is a solemn day of prayer and celebration. We are united to Jesus Christ as we celebrate the Love of God in our families, our home, our world and in each of our lives.
There are many beautiful Christmas traditions in the Church and in each family, too many to enumerate. Some of the traditions are authentic, going back to the first Christmas. These are the traditions that we learn about in scripture, such as the baby Jesus being born in a stable in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, and the angels singing “Glory to God” to the shepherds who go to worship the child. Other traditions are beautiful and carry a certain romance, but emanate from popular cultures rather than historical accuracy. For example we sing about the Little Drummer Boy, but that was written in 1958. The concept of blending Christmas and snow, or a white Christmas, and the burning of the yule log, come from the celebrations of Christmas in the Northern European countries, and, of course, Bing Crosby, who for most of the people here was an ancient singer. Irving Berlin’s White Christmas was first performed by Bing Crosby in 1942.
Many of your families have special Christmas traditions, unique to your family, such as which Christmas Mass you attend, or when the children lead everyone in singing Silent Night, etc. There are so many Christmas traditions and so many beautiful Christmas carols and hymns, that it is a shame the Christmas season is so brief. We don’t have the time to enjoy them all.
But we do have plenty of time, all year in fact, to enjoy the whole purpose of the Christmas celebration. Jesus is the reason for the season, many of you sport on your car bumpers, or on pins. That is wonderful because it reminds people of why we have Christmas in the first place. It also reminds us that we keep Christmas alive all year by celebrating the Presence of the Lord in our lives.
About a month and a half ago, I was struck by a concept: Jesus is the reason for the season. Simply speaking, we are also the reason for the season. We are the reason why the Eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Trinity was sent by the Father to take on flesh through the Virgin Mary. God saw how mankind stumbled in the darkness of a pagan world with its glorification of materialism. He sees how we are still tempted to walk aimlessly in life. Jesus came and continues to come in each of our lives to give us light, and meaning, and purpose and goodness, and beauty and truth. He is the “Light from Light,” as the Prologue to the Gospel of John calls him. The baby that was born that blessed night was the greatest of all gifts. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life,” John 3:16 proclaims. Jesus gave himself totally to us. We are the reason He suffered and died. He gave us a reason to live. There is a story about an old priest whose Christmas homily was always the same. It consisted in only one sentence repeated over and over with different tones of voice and different words accented. All the priest said was, “The wood of the cradle is the wood of the cross.” We keep Christmas alive when we live the sacrificial love of the One who was born for us and who died for us.
We are the reason that He came to earth. We are the reason that He suffered and died. Thirty years ago, David Meese wrote that as little children we dreamed about the gifts and toys that would be waiting for us on Christmas morning. It was hard then for us to realize, as, perhaps it is hard now for us to comprehend, that the greatest gift we could receive was the one that God gave us. Jesus was born because God loves us. He loves us as His People, and he loves each of us as His special creation.
Many times I have said, and I have heard others say, “I need to make room for God in my life, or “I need to fit God into my life.” This is good, excellent in fact, but we should remember that Jesus was not born on Christmas and did not die on Good Friday so we can fit Him into our lives. We are more important than that to our Creator, Savior and Inspirer, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He came not so we can fit Him into our lives, but so we could fit into His Life. There is a huge difference. God wants to fill the world with the wonders of His Presence. He does this through people who are united to Him. We have received the Life of Christ at our Baptism. We are called to make this life a reality in the world. We live to serve the Lord.
Kent M. Keith wrote what you could call guidelines in dealing with the reaction that people may have to our determination to serve the Lord. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta loved these. She revised them a bit, added a final phrase, and posted them in the hospices and other institutions of the Missionaries of Charity. Her instructions to her sisters applies to us all. She addressed the fact that many people are very negative with those who are trying to make the Presence of Christ a reality in the world. Perhaps there are some here who have experienced this in the reaction of family, friends, neighbors or people in general. You have made the life of Christ your life and people challenge you and even confront you on your choice. The Guidelines as Blessed Mother Teresa revised them are:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
In the final analysis, all that matters is our union with God.
Jesus is the reason for the season, true. But we are also the reason for the season. He comes to each of us Christmas day and every day of our lives to unite us to His Life. Whether we are busy parents with little children, or young people looking forward to a life filled with the love of marriage or the love of a religious or priestly vocation, or a dedicated Catholic single looking to spend as much time as is available to serve God, whether we are older people whose children have moved on with their lives, or senior citizens who are living each day we have left to serve God the best we can, our lives are ultimately about our life with God. Nothing else matters. Only God, only His Life, only His Love matters.
We are united to God through Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal Word of God, the One on the cross who ransomed our lives from the power of hatred through the power of a love that is sacrificial and all-embracing. We are united to the One who was born on Christmas Day so that we may be reborn on Easter Sunday.
“May He make of us and eternal offering to you,” we pray in the Third Eucharistic Prayer. This is the reason why He came. We are the reason why He came. Jesus is the Christmas Gift of the Father to us. We are the gift of Jesus Christ to His Father.
I pray that you and your families have a Holy Christmas. And may we all keep Christmas alive through our union with our Loving God.