Dec. 25, 2015: Christmas
Click to hear Audio Homily
This evening, my sister’s family will be attending Christmas mass. I know what my 7-yr. old nephew will be thinking throughout the mass. His father sent me a photo of a special letter he wrote. It read, “Dear Santa, I believe in you. Here are the things I want: a million dollars, a Meccanoid Robot, Zoomer Dog, and a VEX Robotic Arm. Sincerely, Pio.” I want to add a note to Santa that he should get a second job so that he can afford my nephew’s Christmas wishes.
What are you thinking about during this night? Each time we read the gospel, we are struck by something new. For me, I was touched when I realized that all the persons involved in the Nativity were away from their home. Let me explain.
Mary and Joseph, despite being late in her pregnancy, were traveling to another town because the government required they register in Joseph’s hometown. Dashed was Mary’s hope of having her family close by when she was to give birth to her firstborn. Can we even imagine the stress of traveling by donkey to a town days away? Think about your most stressful trip -- flight delays, crying, sleepy children, and lost luggage; take that image, multiply it by ten and you may get a sense of how Joseph and Mary felt when they arrived in Bethlehem.
The shepherds were not at home -- they were in the field tending the sheep in the cold evening night away from the warmth of their dwellings. Shepherds spent much of their lives away from home and were considered outcasts because they were smelly and dirty from living outside, tending the sheep.
Even the angels were not at home. They were not in heaven where things are always peaceful -- they were flying around talking to those smelly shepherds in the little town of Bethlehem.
And last but not least, not even Jesus was at home. He was away from the loving embrace of His Heavenly Father, sent to our earthly world, to a people who were living in darkness of not knowing God’s love for them.
Why was everyone led away from the comfort of their homes for this holy birth of the Child Jesus? Perhaps God is revealing to us where our true home lies. Most of us think of Christmas time as a time to be home again. But where is home? God is revealing to us that home is where Jesus is - where His love abounds. Even though Mary and Joseph were away from their home, and despite the difficult situation and circumstances, at the moment of the birth of Child Jesus, they were no longer a couple, but a family -- and this was their home.
Think about all the events that happened to you this year. Were there times when you felt you were out of your element, losing direction, perhaps going through dark times or suffering? Were there times that even when you were with your family that you did not feel consolation?
The beautiful hymn of “What Child Is This,” helps us understand what happened on this night in Bethlehem.
What child is this, who, laid to rest,
On Mary's lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
The message of the angel to the shepherds is really a message to all of us. The first message that the angels deliver to us is this: “Do not be afraid.” Then the angels states, “Behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. A savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” These are the words we have been longing for. We have been searching and longing for our true home, and finally we have found it. God is with us--Emmanuel. Across two thousand years, those words reach out to us in joy and hope and consolation. No matter who you are, no matter where you live, no matter what your circumstances, this is what matters: Do not be afraid. God is with you.
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring Him laud,
The babe, the son of Mary.
Our challenge is to discover Jesus in every person, event, and situation. Thus we can never be separated from home, because in Christ, we are always at home.
I wish each of you and your precious family a very happy celebration of the most holy birth of the Child Jesus. May the Christ Child who comes to us in Eucharist, touch those who encounter us and make them feel home. May those whom we counter recognize the heart of child Jesus in us; may we be His love and peace to them.
-Fr. Paul Yi