Merry Christmas, everyone!

“The grace of God has appeared, saving all,” St. Paul wrote to Titus as quoted in our second reading, “The appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”  This is what we celebrate this night, the fulfilment of our first reading’s prophecy from Isaiah, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. ... a Child is born for us, a Son is given; upon his shoulders dominion rests.” 

 St. Luke’s Gospel tells the story and gives the joyful details that we have repeated over and over again in the Church for 2000 years – that we have heard and known all our Christian lives: “Today in the City of David, a Savior is born for you who is Christ, the Lord.”

As a priest and preacher of God’s Word who has stood in many different pulpits at Christmas for the past 38 years, I always feel challenged at each Christmas Mass to proclaim the Christmas message in a new way.  The congregation and audience are always different, but the story never changes, it is the same: the journey to Bethlehem, the Manger, Mary, Joseph, the animals, the shepherds, the angels, the star, the Child, the message, the truth: “God’s Word became flesh and has dwelt among us ... and we have seen His glory.”

But that glory has been and is sometimes eclipsed, obscured, overshadowed in our world since that night long ago in ancient Bethlehem. That glory is sometimes hard to see, to embrace, to hold on to in our own histories, in our own experiences, in our own lives, in our own moments in time.  And, sad to say, even in our own Church.  We have to keep reminding ourselves of Isaiah’s prophecy, “The people who walked in darkness, have seen a great light.” 

The star that shone in the eastern sky that first Christmas night continues to shine – Christ is born, Christ is given, Christ is our Savior – that star, my sisters and brothers, is our faith. That star, my sisters and brothers, is brighter, stronger, truer than any darkness or doubts or difficulty that the world upon which it has shone and continues to shine could place in our paths. 

Hear the story that we have heard so many times, hear it again, but hear it as if it were for the first time. Listen to the angels speak as they did to the teenage virgin Mary at the annunciation, “Mary, do not be afraid”; listen to the angels as they speak to the carpenter Joseph in a dream after he learned that his intended wife was already with child, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid”; listen to the angels as they speak to the trembling shepherds gazing at that, strange, dazzling star that night, “do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy,” Christmas joy!  The Christmas joy that brought Mary and Joseph together as they welcome a newborn.  The Christmas joy proclaimed by the Church over the centuries and continues to bring us together this night to hear God’s Word and to receive him in the Eucharist.  The Christmas joy that brings us together in our families and in our parish community.

My dear sisters and brothers, maybe the angels of old are speaking to us now in whatever the particular circumstances of our lives and our world may be – and you know what those circumstances are – listen to the angels as they whisper and sing and shout, “do not be afraid.” 

Look to the star, let its light shine bright, hold on to your faith this Christmas and never let go.  Let God be God in your lives and in our world!  Christ our Savior is born!  Proclaim with the angels, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to those on whom his favor rests” ...  have faith because his favor rests on you!  Merry Christmas!