December 25, 2018 – Christmas Day!
I delivered the following homily at yesterday’s Christmas Eve Masses at St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis…and may be using it again today, depending on Fr. Jim’s voice!
Perhaps you have heard this advice: Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer.
At Mass yesterday, it was clear Fr. Jim had some throat issues and was having difficulty speaking. Concerned about my friend and pastor, I reached out to him this morning.
I sent him a text asking, “Are you feeling any better? Do you have your voice back?”
Again – Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to hear the answer.
He replied, “Thanks for checking. My voice is still weak…”
And then it happened. He continued, “Do you think you could put a homily together? Thanks again for reaching out.”
I replied, “Yes, I could do that, but I better get busy. I don’t have a direct pipeline to the Holy Spirit like you do.”
To which he replied, “God will reward you for your kindness.”
In reality, I am at peace with the last-minute call to preach on Christmas. It’s all about celebrating the birth of a baby, the gift of a child. And who doesn’t like talking about babies?
Just yesterday I was blessed to baptize three babies and experience their beautiful innocence. One little girl, Hazel, slept through the entire thing. I’ve never seen anything like it. She slept during the prayers, slept while I poured water on her head, and continued to sleep when I held her up so everyone could applaud and welcome her into the church. It was amazing.
Christmas is about the birth of a child. The events of the day focus on children and bring adults back to their childhood.
All things are possible with God. He could have sent His only Son, Jesus, as a 30-year-old adult to immediately begin the work of recruiting disciples and preaching the Good News. Instead, in Isaiah we heard, “..for a child is born to us, a son is given us.” And from Luke’s nativity story: “Mary gave birth to her son…wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger.”
Although divine, Jesus came as a child to live the full human experience – infant birth until death. He was like us in all things but sin. He came to be among those He served – a shepherd living with the smell of the sheep.
Experiencing childhood helped form His humanity. Jesus saw the beauty and innocence of children and encouraged his followers to recall that childhood innocence and to, in fact, duplicate it:
Matthew 19:14 “Let the children come to me.”
Luke 18:17 “…whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.”
What was it about his experience as a child and His experience with children that caused Jesus to speak of them in this way? Jesus saw what you may see on Christmas morning – the wide-eyed wonder, exuberance, and joy of children. Children are willing and able to be awe-struck.
One of my favorite family pictures was taken of our oldest daughter, Mary, while holding her infant son. Little Joseph is reaching out his chubby hand and looking up at his mom with incredible joy, as if to say, “You are so awesome!” He was experiencing the beauty of his mother as only a child can.
I love everything about the Mass, but one of my favorite parts here at St. Pius occurs when the children are called forward to put their offering in the basket at the altar. It is a true illustration of what Jesus saw in children.
Some come tentatively, others with confidence. Some come alone, others hold the hand of a sibling. Some drop the money in and walk away, others stand over the basket as if they just dropped a coin in a mile-deep well and are waiting for the splash. I even saw one little boy drop in a quarter and reach in and take out a dollar.
However, what they all have in common is wide-eyed wonder and childlike exuberance. They are fully engaged. They exude joy.
Jesus was born an infant so that He could fully experience humanity. What He saw – what He felt – as He looked at life through the eyes of a child stayed with Him. It helped form His relationship with God the Father. It helped guide His response to the needs of others. It would do no good for Jesus to encourage us to be childlike if He’d never been a child Himself. And so, we have Christmas.
To the children here today: Hold onto your childlike exuberance and joy despite the efforts of the world to steal it away.
To the adults: Live your faith through the eyes of a child. Approach your relationship with Jesus Christ with wide-eyed wonder and joyfulness. What could be more awe-inspiring than the unconditional and sacrificial love He offers?
Allow yourself to be awe-struck!
Regardless of what wrapped package awaits you under the tree at home, there is no greater gift than the infant Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in the manger.
The thought of that beautiful gift is deserving of a joyful, childlike, “Amen!”
Amen? (Response from congregation…hopefully a big AMEN!)