Homily for Christmas Day
December 25, 2014
Welcome and Merry Christmas! Perhaps you caught the ceremonial lighting of the National Christmas Tree. This is what the president said about Christmas: "It's the story of hope –- the birth of a singular child into the simplest of circumstances – a child who would grow up to live a life of humility, and kindness, and compassion; who traveled with a message of empathy and understanding; who taught us to care for the poor, and the marginalized, and those who are different from ourselves. And more than two millennia later, the way he lived still compels us to do our best to build a more just and tolerant and decent world."
Not a bad statement. However, when it comes to Christmas, there is more. Christmas, the day of Jesus’ birth, is about so much more then caring for the marginalized, and the poor. It certainly does speak to that, though. It is also more than just a past event that continues to inspire us. Jesus’ birth continues even today. Let me give you an example.
Some of you may remember that in the 1970’s the communists took over South Vietnam. They arrested and imprisoned Archbishop Francois-Xavier Nguyen van Thuan, the Archbishop of Saigon. The Archbishop spent thirteen years in prison, with nine of those years spent in solitary confinement. While in prison, he was able to obtain a small amount of hosts and wine to say Mass. Since he had no chalice or paten, the Archbishop placed three drops of wine and a drop of water in his hand every day to say Mass. That tiny bit of wine and the hosts became the Body and Blood of Jesus right there in his hands! I can only imagine the Archbishop tenderly holding Jesus in his hands, just as the Blessed Mother must have held him. At every Mass, when the priest is at the altar, he holds Jesus in his hands! The Mass-whether celebrated at St. Peter’s in Rome, a prison, or a beautiful parish church like ours-is our Bethlehem. Here at mass, Jesus becomes truly present once again in a very humble way. His birth happened 2,000 years ago, but he becomes physically present to us in the bread and wine that become his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. It truly is a miracle.
Christmas is a time of miracles. It is a time of wonder. I would like to share a story about a miracle that happened in a parish community. The people were getting ready for Christmas Mass. The sacristan went in to the sacristy to find the Infant Jesus for the manger scene, only to discover that baby Jesus was missing. The statue was nowhere to be found, so the priest decided to put a small basket of hosts in the manager. In his homily, the priest said the original manger was actually a feeding troth for animals, that the word Bethlehem means “House of Bread” and the Child Jesus himself would one day offer the “Bread of Life.” After communion, the statue of the Infant Jesus miraculously appeared, looking better than ever. No one knows how it happened. It is a story that the people of the parish love to tell.
Our God is a God of miracles. In the Bible, the word miracle refers to an unexpected gift. Now God is, of course, a God of order. The Scriptures tell us that God created the world and established laws in a way that we can understand and predict. He is also, however, a God of surprises and He will do the unexpected to get our attention. That is what happened in Bethlehem when God became man.
If God can become man, he can do the unexpected in your life. He can perform miracles. Perhaps some of you have come here needing a miracle. Maybe you have marital or finance problems. Maybe things have gone bad with your children, health, or emotional wellbeing. Remember, God cares for you. Ask him today to help you! In the Mass, we have the miracle of the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ. It is really a miracle. God wants to perform miracles like that in your life. He wants to be performing a miracle in your life, but He is waiting for you to ask him. Try Him!
I will end with the story of a famous painting. It shows Jesus standing at a door, his hand lifted as if he is preparing to knock on that door. The door, however, has no knob. When someone pointed this out to the artist, he explained that it was not a mistake. “The only handle” he said, “is on the inside. Only you can open that door to Jesus.” Friends, Jesus is knocking at the door to your heart-right here, right now. Let him in. Ask him for the miracle you need. God wants to work a miracle in your life!