Christmas 2018 (Fr. Francis)

by | Dec 26, 2018

My brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Christ is born for us! Every year we celebrate again the birth of Jesus Christ. We Catholics celebrate His birth as the birth of God for us. We believe that Jesus was a human, like us in all things except sin, that He was physically born as the son of Mary and yet was the unique Son of God and fully God in every sense of that term. We believe that Jesus was born as God for us to free us from our sins and to show us the immense love that God has for us.

Every Christmas it is important that we understand fully what we believe about Jesus because our Christian faith is challenged on every side in modern culture. Our faith must be growing each year if we are to follow Christ. The real challenges to faith in Jesus Christ are those values of our present world that make pleasure and comfort the most important things in life. We have listened to the readings from our Scriptures. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of the incredible joy that those who walked in darkness now experience as light dawns in our world. This is an image to speak about how God will transform our world. None of us can look around and think for a moment that the world has been transformed already.

Jesus has been born for us and the world is a mess! Some would say that the world is a mess because of religion, that any religion over the centuries has caused more harm than good and that perhaps a way forward is to create only secular values. Others will say that Christianity has never really been tried. We have Christian institutions but they never seem to reflect accurately and with strength the love that we can see in Jesus in the New Testament.

So why do we celebrate this Christmas? The second reading, from Titus, tells us that we celebrate because Jesus has been born for us and has taught us a new way of living: Jesus gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good. We don’t hear in the New Testament any plan to change the whole world, we don’t have a social organization to help everybody and we don’t have any sense that Jesus has come to change the world in these ways at all.

Jesus invites anyone who wants to live a divine life to follow Him. The transformation is clearly not at the level of institution. Institutions are transformed only insofar as the people who form institutions are transformed. Thus we need not be surprised that our Church is often a mess, since there is no guarantee that priests, bishops or even popes will strive to be saints. When we hear this Gospel and wonder about the birth of Jesus, we see the perfect image of divinity taking on humanity. We see in the Gospel a tiny baby, totally fragile and vulnerable. We are asked to believe that this is God!! Even the references to the census that was to take place and to Quirinius as governor of Syria might not be accurate historically. Yet, we are asked to believe in the writings of the New Testament, in their basic truthfulness and in this reality: this child who is born is God born for us.

We only celebrate Christmas, the birth of the Lord, because we believe that Jesus is the Lord and lived, suffered and died for us. And then He rose from the dead! So we do not celebrate simply the birth of a sweet baby! We celebrate the birth of our salvation, the beginning of our liberation and an invitation to become divine with Christ.

Because we have to look at the mess in our world, we cannot pretend for a moment that salvation means that everything has changed! Everything has changed because we know that God loves us. Everything has changed because God loved us to much that He gave His only Son to us for our salvation. So as we celebrate Holy Mass and remember the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are invited to rejoice because we are loved. We are invited to let our hearts be moved by the image of a new-born child, because our world is always like that. We can rejoice in a God who is willing to take on our humanity but not willing to force His ways upon. Always we are invited and never are we compelled.

We can rejoice this night also because we recognize the fragility and brokenness of our human institutions and even the fragility and brokenness of our Church. We have eyes of faith that can see in the Christ Child the Jesus who will suffer, die and rise for us. So also we can see with the eyes of faith the divine present in our fragile and broken Church. We are not promised a perfect world in this life and all attempts to force this world to perfection will never work. We are invited to have a life of love and we always have an invitation to share divinity. With faith, we see always the new life that is possible and that is actually happening all around us, in the midst of brokenness, wars, famine, hatred and evil. Let us rejoice in the Christ Child tonight and give thanks for the gift of faith. Let us follow the path of the Christ Child and be willing to live with Him completely. Christ is born for us!

Fr. A. Francis HGN