FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF JESUS, December 25, 2021:
Christmas is such a nostalgic time of year. Especially in the midst of pandemic, when we’re not able to do all of the normal things that we do for Christmas, if you’re like me, your mind keeps lingering on those cherished memories of the past. Just this week, with our school children at Mass, I shared the story of my favorite Christmas ever. I was around six or seven years old, and this particular year, I only wanted one gift. It was the shortest Christmas letter that I ever wrote to Santa as a child. I only wanted one thing and I wanted it more than anything else in the world. My letter said simply, “Dear Santa, I have been a very good boy this year. Please bring me a grand piano. Love, Tommy.” What could possibly go wrong? I was good for a whole year (or so I thought), I wrote a very polite letter. I didn’t confuse it with asking for too many things.
That Christmas Eve, I could barely sleep. In the morning, as soon as Mom and Dad said I could leave my room, I excitedly ran to the living room to see my brand new shiny grand piano. “I bet it takes up the whole living room,” I thought. But, when I got to the living room, the new piano wasn’t there. But, instead, my eyes were drawn to the center of the Christmas Tree. Pinned to the tree was something that I would soon realize was even better than a new piano. On the tree was a handwritten letter from Santa – written on North Pole stationary! A letter from Santa, just to me! Santa knew my name! He explained that the piano just wouldn’t fit on his sleigh along with the presents for all of the other boys and girls in the world. And, Santa was sure I would understand (I did.). But, he also promised to bring me a keyboard which would fit on the sleigh next year. I can’t tell you how quickly I forgot about that piano because Santa himself had written a letter to me! That letter, to this day, remains my favorite Christmas present ever.
When my mind is drawn to these nostalgic memories of Christmas, it always goes back to that year and that letter. And on some level, I think Santa Claus reminds us all of that childhood awe and wonder at Christmas that we constantly long for.
Christmas is – for most people – the happiest time of year. The Christmas song reminds us, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” But, I think especially during these last two years, Christmas also keeps reminding us that things aren’t the way they used to be. This year – again – won’t be like other years. Masks, and vaccines, and rapid tests have replaced the arms full of presents entering a relative’s house, and being smothered in hugs and kisses by our loved ones. Things are again different this year.
But, just maybe, we can turn this difference into an opportunity this year. If you think about it, the way we celebrate Christmas in our culture is all about the past. All about trying to relive a past from a long time ago. Think about our traditions. In so many families, Christmas involves certain foods, certain rituals, at certain people’s homes. Traditions intended to give us comfort in a world that keeps changing. Or think about the music. How many new Christmas songs make it into the rotation on the radio? Not many. We’re singing along with Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Mel Torme, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra – and so many other artists who have long left this world. Our treasured Christmas songs are from fifty years ago or more. Our “newest” song is probably Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas – and that came out in 1994! Or think about Santa Claus. Everyone shares a loving nostalgic memory of Santa Claus.
But, here is the blessing that we can discover this year, even in the midst of pandemic. You see, the true meaning of Christmas is not in the past. The true meaning of Christmas is in the present. It’s right now here in this Church tonight/today. The true meaning of Christmas is the promise that God made to us, a promise God is fulfilling right here, right now. It is the promise of Emmanuel – God is with us! The promise to always be with us. The promise that the people who lived in darkness would see light. God never gave us a promise that things would be the way they used to be. He gave us a promise that there would be new hope and new joy; that there would be new life with Him.
You see Christmas is not really some historic re-enactment of the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago. It’s not about that limited moment in history that happened so long ago. Our celebration is not mere theater. Christmas is about God coming to us today. Christmas is about God coming into our lives, here and now, coming into our hearts tonight/today in this church. Dwelling with us and within us in the midst of our sadness and sorrow; in the midst of our joy and celebration. Always, God is with us.
The real meaning of Christmas is that Christ is born in us and among us today. Gently healing us. Gathering us in His arm and showering His love upon us. Removing our burden. Giving us life. Forgiving us whatever separates us from Him. Gently enabling us to forgive ourselves, to let go of our anger, our pain, our sadness, our worry, our anxiety. Christ is born in us and Christ is born among us today.
There is a wonderful quote from Dorothy Day that says, “I'm so glad that Jesus was born in a stable. Because my soul is so much like a stable. It is poor and in unsatisfactory condition because of guilt, falsehoods, inadequacies and sin. Yet I believe that if Jesus can be born in a stable, maybe He can also be born in me.”
So this year, once again, will be different, but let that make all the difference. Let us not worry about Christmas past, but in Christmas present – Christmas right here and now – let us allow Jesus to be born within us again. Allow Jesus to work a miracle in you today – the miracle that opens your heart to hope, to light, to life, to the joy that only Jesus can give us. Christ is being born in you today. He is with you, and He will gently shower you with hope, and light, and life.
“The angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”
Merry Christmas and may the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.