Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day

God created the world out of nothing through the power of his word. He spoke and it came to be. He said, "Let there be light", and there was light. He caused the mountains to rise up from the sea. He filled the sea with fish and the land with animals. Finally, by the power of his word, he created man and woman to be the crowning achievement of his great work. He created in us hearts to hear his word and mouths to proclaim it.

When he called Israel out from among the nations to be a people peculiarly his own, he sent them prophets to proclaim his word among them. Such was the prophet Isaiah who speaks to us in today's first reading. He proclaimed to the people of Israel - and to us today - the good news of peace and salvation from God. Through the prophets, God promised Israel a mighty savior who would forgive them their sins and lead them in the ways of peace. Not only would this great Messiah lead Israel to freedom, but all the nations would witness the great power of God at work through this Savior.

When Isaiah first spoke these words, it was unclear what his meaning was. Who would this great king be? How would he lead Israel to freedom and peace? We who gather here this morning know exactly what Isaiah meant. We are celebrating this great mystery today. The boy born this day to Mary and Joseph fulfills all the promises and prophesies of the Old Testament. Jesus is the Savior of the World.

In the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews we read: "In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son..." God who so powerfully created the world by his word, and then called the nation of Israel into being by his word, now speaks one last time in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is the Word made Flesh dwelling among us.

What does the birth of Jesus tells us about this mighty God?

Very simply, God wants us to know him. He sent Jesus, a man like us, so that we could hear from his very mouth how much he loves us and how he longs for our friendship. Jesus is Truth and Love. Whoever hears him, hears the Father. Whoever sees him, sees the Father. We do not need to look anywhere else to find God but in the person of Jesus.

When Pope John Paul II made his first trip to the United States, he preached a beautiful homily to the rain-soaked crowds who had gathered in the Boston Common. In short, he said that all those who want to know the truth should turn to Jesus. He is the Truth. All those who seek meaning in their lives should turn to Jesus. He is the source of all meaning. All those who seek love should turn to Jesus. He is the love of God made flesh among us. These words of the pope make clear to us the meaning of Christmas: Jesus is born to bring God into our world and into our lives.

And so, this child born today is a lifeline to all those who are lost and don't know how to find their way. This child is God's hand stretched out to all those who looked for success, happiness and fulfillment in what the world offers, but couldn't find it. Jesus is God's peace extended to all those who have become bitter or enraged by life's unfairness. This child is hope born to those who have grown weary and have given up on ever finding meaning and purpose in their lives.

Whatever it is our hearts ache for - whether it be love, peace, truth or meaning - all of it can be found in the person of Jesus.

This has been a very difficult year for most of us. Many people are out of work. We feel poorer and less secure these days. If anything, we have learned that the security and happiness money promises to give us is an illusion. The future can look dark. However, in the darkness of these days, hope is born for us. If Jesus is our light, we can never lose our way, and the darkness of despair can never totally consume us. Jesus is the Light of the World.

For those of us who have already welcomed this child into our hearts and made him the center of our lives, we should rejoice! We have come to know the meaning and purpose of our lives. We know the truth and are given the power to live in the love of God. It is now up to us not only to celebrate it but to share it with everyone we meet. This light cannot remain hidden. We must bring it into our homes, into our places of work and into our classrooms.

For those of us who are still searching, God is offering us another opportunity to welcome him into our lives. God never grows tired of stretching his hand out to us when we are lost or confused. Whatever it is that we are struggling with, whatever it is that is keeping us from experiencing the fullness of joy, God has the answer for it. We need only turn to the baby born this day, take him into our arms and promise to love him. When the first step of our searching becomes love rather than doubt, then we are back on the path to truth. When love rather than knowledge is our driving force, then everything suddenly becomes a little clearer.

God wants to move in with us. He wants to be in our lives. Like any baby, he simply wants our love and attention. Who would deny a baby affection and care? Who wouldn't want to share their homes and their lives with a newborn child?

Just such a child is born for us today. He is Jesus!

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