Dear friends! It was the day after Christmas at St Augustine church Kalamazoo MI. Fr. Mike, the vicar, was looking at the nativity scene outside when he noticed the baby Jesus was missing from the figures. Immediately, Fr. Mike’s thoughts turned to calling in the local policeman but as he was about to do so, he saw little Nathan with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant, Jesus. Fr. Mike approached Nathan and asked him, ‘Well, Nathan, from where did you get the little infant?’ Nathan looked up, smiled and replied, ‘I took him from the church.’ ‘And why did you take him?’ With a sheepish grin, Nathan said, ‘Well, Fr. Mike, about a week before Christmas I prayed to Lord Jesus. I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would give him a ride around the block in it.’
NEWS FLASH! There will be no Christmas celebration in Washington, DC this year. It’s because they could not find three wise men.
Christmas is truly a joyful celebration. I wish you all Merry Christmas! I am happy to be here with you to celebrate this Mass. We celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing for three reasons. 1) It is the birthday of our God who became man and Savior to save us from our sins. 2) It is the birthday of a God who came to share His love with us and 3) It is the anniversary of the day when Almighty God came to live with us as Emmanuel.
First of all, Christmas is the feast of God’s sending us a Savior. Jesus, the Incarnation of God as man, came to save us from the bondage of sin. The purpose Jesus birth is very clearly written in John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that he sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life.” We celebrate that Incarnation today as good news because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus atoned for our sins and liberated us from slavery to sin by His suffering, death and resurrection.
Every Christmas reminds us that we still need this Savior to be reborn in our hearts and to live there, for we need Him every day to free us from our evil habits, addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. Hence, Christmas challenges us to accept Jesus our as our Lord God and personal Savior and to surrender our sinful lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our lives.
Second, Christmas is the feast of God’s sharing His love with us. Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “good news” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful and rewarding God who wants to save us through His Son Jesus and not a judgmental, cruel and punishing God. Jesus demonstrated by his life and teaching how God, our heavenly Father, loves us, forgives us, and provides for us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was His death on the cross and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Christmas reminds us that we have to allow this God of unconditional love to be reborn in us and to start living in us.
Third, Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel, i.e., God living with us and within us. Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is God-with-us, Emmanuel, Who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as announced by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary. The Christmas story tells us that there is a way out of our sinfulness and hopelessness, because God is with us. We are not alone. There is a mighty God within us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and temptations.
James Lipton invited celebrities to his studio and asked this question: “If you believe that God exists, what do you think He will say to you when you finally see Him?” Steven Spielberg thought for a moment and smiled. He replied: “’Thanks for listening.” So much of the Christmas story is, truly, about listening. When Gabriel arrives to bring Mary the news that she will bear a child…she listens. When the angel tells Joseph in his dreams what is about to happen…he listens. The shepherds listen when the angel announces the “good news of great joy.” Two thousand years later, we confront this stunning message – “tidings of comfort and joy,” as the carol describes it – and our hearts swell with the sentiment of the season. We hear. But are we paying attention? Are we listening? Christmas invites us to listen to God telling us how much He loves the world.
Let us face this question, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world and He is not born in my heart?”(Alexander Pope).