Is. 62:1-5; Ps. 89; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Mt. 1:18-25
(Audio recorded live, 24 December 2022)
Good evening and welcome back. For some of us, it has been a while since we gathered together in this space; for others, it feels just like home. Whenever I think of Christmas, I am reminded of the story of Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem. Last night I was out with my brother doing some last minute shopping. But, before either of us got together, we each had to deal with tire problems, and because of the tremendous cold, my windshield washer froze. So, we had to make our respective pit stops to try and remedy these issues. When we finally got together, his entire apartment complex was without power. It was as if something was trying to prevent us from being together. But, after we starting going to the different stores, we took a break for some dinner, and I asked him what I should preach about on Christmas. Without skipping a beat he said, “Family.” Both of us realized how rarely we get to hang out, and we also realized the importance of being family.
This Christmas, we are reminded of the story of Mary and Joseph, traveling a great distance to the city of Bethlehem. They, like my brother and I, had their share of obstacles to overcome. Mary was nine months pregnant, and when the two tried to find lodging, there was no room in the inn. So, they were forced to take refuge in a stable among the animals—hardly a place for a pregnant woman about to bear the Savior of the world. But, this is the humble beginning God chose to dwell among us.
Fast forward a couple millennia, and here we are today, remembering this story, told for generations, of how the infant in the manger would be the vindication of Israel from the line of the great king David. John the Baptist proclaimed his coming, and the psalmist sings, “At your name they rejoice all the day.” They will call him Emmanuel, which means God-with-us, and he will be a light to the Gentiles. This light we celebrate today is Jesus Christ.
The question for all of us is: Do we believe this? Because if we believe, then we must also live it out. It is one thing to say we believe and then go about our own way; it is another thing to say we believe and allow God to transform our lives. When we believe, we cannot help but to act. I remember a time when I was away from the Church and I met with my pastor who helped me to realize something I never really thought about. I asked him if I should be there or not. He said, “This is your parish. You belong here.” You know something? He was absolutely right. And it is no different for any of us. We belong here, too.
Have we been distant from the Church? Have we been making excuses for not going to Mass? Have we been sleeping at the wheel of our faith? Now is the time for us to awake. St. Augustine once said, “Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.” This is truly an awesome reality.
And so, we see in our own Christmas travels a glimpse of the Holy Family on their way to Bethlehem. We return home this time of year to be close to our own families, overcoming whatever obstacles have gotten in the way, and we do so because we are family, because that’s what families do. But remember, the Church is also your family. We are one body in Christ; we are connected in faith; we are united in love. So, may Christ fill you with his love today and throughout the Christmas Season. And may all of us, our parish family, have a very merry and most blessed Christmas.