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be not afraid
SERMON – CHRISTMAS EVE
December 24, 2011

+In the Name…

“And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring to you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger’” (St Luke 2:10-11).

The angel said to the shepherds, who were so very much startled, shocked, and made afraid as “the glory of the Lord shone around them,” that thy were not to be afraid, because something very good was happening.  The angel announced “good news of a great joy.”

This is what the Church throughout the world and we in this beautiful, quickly-constructed gathering are about on this holy night.  We’re about “good news of a great joy.”  That good news and that great joy is the coming to the world of God as a Child who will grow into a man, in whom, as St. Paul wrote, “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:19).

The God Whom no one created, who has always been, Whose name was revealed to Moses as “I am,” this God deigned to manifest a love, “how deep, how broad, how high,” that He comes to us in the humblest and most vulnerable of ways as a baby – the offspring of the union of heaven and earth, a child conceived miraculously by the Father in heaven and a specially prepared young virgin, who was “full of grace,” by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yes, God chose to come into His own creation through the process of conception and birth that brings us into creation as human beings.  But with God, it was a very dramatic and unprecedented conception; but the Birth of His Son as a child is no different than our own births – from the womb of our mothers.

So we can say that on this Holy Night, we are called to remember and celebrate a history-changing event that keeps changing history when people allow it to – an event that says that God is so incredibly powerful and mysterious; and at the same time, that He is so humble and accessible.  I pray that this gives you great comfort.

I say this because you and I only grow deeper and wiser in our relationship with God when we confront ourselves with how far beyond our reckoning, understanding, and control He is; while at the same time, knowing that He draws so near to us in all that we are, and in all that we face.  It’s that great combination of the words of Jesus (which were first spoken to the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Angel Gabriel), “…that with God all things are possible,” and with the words, “Lo, I am with you always.”

Christmas is about both realities – the otherness of God and the nearness of God; the mind-boggling mystery of God and the mind-soothing accessibility of God.

We come to know both realities which, as I said, are to be a source of comfort for our daily needs and challenges for ourselves and for our loved ones, as we give ourselves to prayer and Sacrament.  Praying to God who stands above and beyond His creation to help and aid it, but a God who dwells within it to be our comfort and companion on the way.  Inviting the God beyond us Who has come to us into our lives for His glory and for our good – for our peace, our health, and for our salvation.  Receiving the Body and Blood of the Savior of the world to be saved, and to be fed and nourished with the spiritual food necessary for our soul’s health.

On this night, as we give ourselves to this liturgical expression of the Mass of Christmas Eve, there should be times within it when we disengage a bit from it, pausing for a moment or two, such as before or after receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood, to ponder how wonderful God is for Who He is and for what He gives, and before leaving this beautiful setting in offering a devotion to Jesus (our Lord) and to His mother (our Lady), and to St. Joseph at the Crèche.

There is an ancient legend that says that when Jesus was born, when He first entered the world as a baby from the womb of His mother, the entire creation – the planets, the stars, the animals on the earth and the fish in the sea, every living thing – paused for a second from their courses because the One by Whom all things were created had entered the created order of the world.  There was a break from the rhythm by all of creation because the Lord of all creation had come amongst it as a baby.  A new life from Life itself had come.

I believe that that was so, and I want very much for us to allow ourselves to repeat that pause of creation in our lives as our offering to God, beyond our liturgical praise and thanksgiving in the ritual and ceremony of this night, which tells Him that we know that all things are different and very good, because He in His Incarnate Son has come to dwell amongst us, and to dwell within us.

It is such a divine mystery, but such a divine treasure that surpasses anything that anyone can give to us.  Our Christmas gifts are signs and symbols of the greatest of all gifts and of the gifts that were given to Him by the Magi.

Christmas time can be a very beautiful and fulfilling time, but it can also be a very troubling time when the pains of loneliness, fears, and unresolved issues of difficult, strained, and trying human relationships can come front and center; and when often the excruciating pain of the loss of a loved one (a spouse, a son, a daughter) is somehow more painful than at other times of the year.  It can be a real mixed bag with are tears of joy and tears of sorrow – all mixed up together.  Sometimes, we really come undone; and that’s quite OK.

All the more reason to pause to think that God who said, through the Angel, that the time was of “good news of a great joy,” is the same God Whose love and comfort is the remedy for us who need large doses of love and comfort – as the world cannot give in what we face and fear, and in what we don’t know how to handle or resolve.  But Christ knows all of this, and is there and here to minister to us.  He said, “The Son of man comes to serve.”  He knows our needs before ask, but He wants us to ask.  He wants us to come – “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”

My dear people: Think this night of the love of God who came among us because He so loves us.  Think of the Blessed Mother of Jesus who gave herself to God and His plan in faith.  Think of Joseph who stood there to shelter and protect the Holy Mother and Child.  Think of Jesus, the Holy Child of Bethlehem, Whose incarnate life was subject to others, and to serve others.  It’s all about love given and love received – the love of God that we His children are to know and share; but before so doing, we are to pause to quietly say, “Thank you, My Lord and My God.”

+In the Name…

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