Homily for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Mass during the Day, Year A 2019
What a joy! We gather here today to celebrate God’s gift to us. A gift of His Son, born of a woman, born subject of the Law to redeem those subjects to the Law and make us adopted sons and daughters of the Father (Galatians 4:4-5). We gather to witness what has happened, that God, the Creator has become one with His creatures. We gather to hear the good news, that God’s Son is not ashamed of us. In fact, He chose to be born of human stock and in a manger.
We gather to look, to consider the details. We gather to wonder, to question and to allow ourselves to be drawn in. Something is happening. History is rewritten. The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light. We can see the light. It is the Son. He is a child, wrapped in swaddling clothes. He is vulnerable. He is frail. He depends on others, on His parents for His security. What a sight! The Creator, in His Son, has become dependent on His own creatures.
We do not get it. How? Why? Because He loves us. He wants us to know how far He can go just for us. So, He becomes a child to draw us out of ourselves. To capture our imagination so that He can affect every part of us. He wants us. He is wooing us. He is not giving up on us because He knows the stuff we are made of. He can see our potential. He can see our future. He knows we are not the sum of our mistakes, our failings and our sins. We are His children.
We also gather with the awareness that not all our brothers and sisters, God’s children celebrate this great day. We know some do not celebrate this day because it is their choice. They do not believe in the God who became man. They see God as too perfect to mingle with the affairs of sinful men let alone become one with man. They cannot imagine God to be Father. For them, He is Master, and we have to approach Him as servants. We must do all we can to please Him.
For this people, religion is about their effort. They are the ones wanting God, searching for Him. They have to work harder and harder to cajole Him to be on their side. They see their relationship with God very much like the computer language of garbage in and garbage out. God has been reduced to meet their own definition of Him. Their definition is closed. There is no way God can be otherwise. He cannot become a child. He cannot be vulnerable, frail, weak.
This understanding of God negates the Christmas story. It puts God in a box and expects Him to be a God of our own making. This is not the true God. For the true God is the God who has the power to lay down His life and to raise it up again. He is the God who is love. He is the God that searches for us. He is the God that does not wait for us to be perfect before He comes to us. He is the God who is with us; always with us even in our mess, brokenness, sin and evil.
He is with us because He is love. And love warms hearts. Love tells our heart a new story, the Good Story. The story that we are more than our sinfulness. Love tells us life is not all about the here and now. There is more, and there is something greater ahead of us. Love speaks to us and open our eyes to see how the present is making way for the future. Love hopes. Love waits for the future to be born. Love grows in us and make us to respond to love by loving.
Love also heals wounds. Love stops the bleeding in our hearts. Love heals our memories of past hurt by giving us a new memory. It is the memory of God’s action. It is the memory of love Himself. It is the memory of love becoming one with us in order to raise us to be one with Him. It is the memory of a surprise, the kind of surprise we imagine the shepherds had when they were found by the angels in the fields. It is the memory that we will never be forgotten by God.
We also gather with the awareness that some cannot celebrate this day not because they do not want to, but because they cannot. We remember those suffering from mental health. We remember those for whom joy is foreign. We remember those who are on the run from danger. We remember those wrongly imprisoned and struggling to let in the light of Christ’s forgiveness. As we celebrate this day, let us be mindful of them. For they are our brothers too.
They are also God’s children. Jesus came for them. He is born into their own reality, their own story. He is also announcing the good news to them. But they cannot hear. They cannot see. They are blind to the other because they are hurting. They are sick. They are in danger. What can we do? Perhaps, we can pay them a visit, or we can ring them. We can leave them a message assuring them no matter what, we are with them. They are not alone. And God is with them.
In saying this, I remember a story of a little boy, Jack who after hearing a priest preach about those who cannot celebrate the joy of Christmas because of their mental health, ran out of their parish Church. He went straight to his classmate, Greg. Greg was in bed. He refused to come out of his room. He felt threatened by the joy-thing. He was imagining everyone was talking about him. So, he hid himself from them. But Jack did the unimaginable. He just sat by Greg.
After an hour or so of silence, Greg spoke. “Thank you,” he said, “and happy Christmas.” Greg’s parents could not believe their son would come out of his room on Christmas day and join their family for a meal. It was a miracle. It is a testimony of how love affects everything. Jack’s love for Greg warmed up the cold heart of Greg and healed his pain. This was possible because Jack, did not see Greg as the sum of his mental health issues, but as a brother of our brother Jesus. This is the Christmas story retold. Let us go and do the same. Merry Christmas!
Fr. Francis Afu