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December 25, 2018 - Christmas: The Thrill, The Tragedy, The Hope

The Nativity of the Lord – Christmas

Scripture Readings

It was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. I was walking to the back of the church for the entrance procession for our school Mass. A kindergartner waived to me and said, “Hi, Jesus!” I waved back as I smiled. In my mind I said, “Girl, you are killing me!” Think about it, though. There was a time when a little child could wave and another human person and say, “Hi Jesus!” There was a time when Jesus walked as a human person and a blind man cried out, “Jesus, Son of David! Have pity on me!” There was a day, when the disciples looked at a human person and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”! There was also that fateful day, when a Roman Centurion looked up to a human person nailed to a cross, and exclaimed, “Truly, this was the Son of God!” (Mt 27:54). Christmas is the day on which humans look at a baby lying in a manger in a stable and said, “Hi, Jesus!” 

The gospel reading for Christmas recounts the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. There are three elements in this story: thrill, tragedy, the hope.  This Christmas, I would to reflect on these three things - the Thrill, the Tragedy, and the Hope of Christmas.  

1. The Thrill. The Gospel tells us the story of Jesus’ birth in a thrilling way. First, an angel appeared to the shepherds and announced the “good news of great joy!” (Lk 2:10). Again, towards the end of the passage there appeared a“multitude of heavenly host with the angel, praising God and singing,“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Lk 2:14). As you and I are already experiencing sitting in this Church, Christmas is a season that thrills. Just look around. A stunningly decorated church, scintillating music, a packed church! Today we dress differently, we act differently, we exchange gifts, we give to charities, families gather and celebrate. We do it because we are thrilled! We are thrilled that God became like one of us. We are thrilled because Eternity stepped down into our midst made us timeless. We are thrilled because God, in human form, walked the face of our earth and sanctified it. We are thrilled because God is in our midst. Christmas is thrilling!  

2. The Tragedy. There is an element of tragedy contained within the larger story. Luke tells us, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Personally, this has been a struggle within me - that we live in a world where the tragedy of that first Christmas story even continues today. For many, many people, there continues to be no room, no home. We must be very sensitive to the refugees and migrants looking for a home these days. Let us make room for them, because, in them Jesus is looking for a room.  

3. The Hope. While that first Christmas was thrilling, as Christ grew up and began his mission, the thrill turned into disappointment and disillusionment. Some people could not align their views with the message that Jesus proclaimed. He wanted to break the barriers that exist between God and humanity and humanity with each other. Tragically, he encountered a people unwilling to live in the love, compassion, mercy, peace, and forgiveness that God sent Jesus to proclaim. He encountered opposition, hate, prejudice, false accusations, and lies. Finally, filled with hate, people to put him to death. Imagine this, they put to death the very man children called out to and said “Hi Jesus.” The very man the blind man called, “Jesus, Son of David,” they killed him. The very man the disciples called, “The Christ” they crucified him. They brutally murdered that same child we adore on Christmas day. However, Jesus never gave up hope. Even at his death, Jesus continued to give hope. He continued to love till the end. He had a hope! He hoped that humanity would come to recognize his death as a testimony of God’s unconditional and passionate love for humanity. Jesus continued to hope that his death would be remembered not as a defeat, but the triumph of love, compassion and peace.  

Today, as you leave this Church, go out in hope. Take the thrill of Christmas with you. Stand up for the things that Christ stood for. Stand for love. Stand for compassion. Stand for mercy. Stand for goodness. Stand for welcome and openness. Welcome the stranger, be kind to the poor, forgive the sinner, love unconditionally, strive to create peace. Then it would be Christmas all over again. Honestly, the best compliment someone can give you is, “Hi Jesus!”   

Today we receive a simple piece of bread and humble wine from this altar and say, “Amen!” When we receive this bread and wine we receive the “word become flesh.” Who “dwells among us.” Let us bring this Jesus to the world. In fact, because we become so much like Jesus, may people say to us, “Hi Jesus!” 

- Fr. Satish Joseph