The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) Night
Dec. 24, 2022 (6:30 PM)
Book of the Prophet Isaiah 9:1-6
Psalm 96 1-2, 2-3, 11-12 and 13
Letter from St. Paul to Titus 2::11-14
The Gospel of St. Luke 2:1-14
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
On behalf of our celebrants, Fr. Burke and Fr. Michael, our pastor Fr. Keith, our associate pastors Fr. Jins and Fr. Joe, and Deacon’s Bob, David, and myself, we wish you all a very safe, merry, and Blessed Christmas. To all of our out-of-town visitors we want to welcome you here. Thank you for joining and sharing this day with us at the Holy sacrifice of the Mass. For those who have been away from Church for a while, or are not regular Mass attendees, yet are here tonight, let me tell you that you are always welcome. We are very glad to see you. You are here because your soul, your heart, your mind felt something pull you, call it a desire, a need, to celebrate this day of Christ’s birth, the miracle in a manger in Bethlehem. Whatever you call it that brought you here, I will call it the Holy Spirit reawakening a longing in you for more than just what this world has to offer, which, by the way, all originates with God. So, thank you for joining us. Let me be the first to ask you to come back again to your spiritual home. I can assure you that it is not hard to do, and you will feel better. God is all loving and infinitely merciful. Like the father of the prodigal son, He is always looking for us to come home after we strayed.
Now, many decades ago I was a kid and, like children today, I could not wait to open gifts. My parents took us- all eight of us- to morning Mass on Christmas day. That was our first introduction to penance. We knew Santa had been at our house during the night because when we got up, we saw the gifts under the tree. But we were not allowed to open gifts until after we got home from Church. So, as a child, you wondered why was the Priest talking for so long after the Gospel? Didn’t he know that Santa Claus had left gifts at our house waiting to be opened? So, when I was asked to prepare a homily for Christmas, I considered my childhood experiences. I thought I would just say have a Merry Christmas, but I cannot. I learned in diaconate class that Canon Law requires the preaching of a homily on all Sundays and Holy Days. It does not say how long so I made a commitment to myself to keep this under 15 minutes. You are welcome in advance. Just Kidding.
Christmas is finally here. Tonight, is the last night of the seemingly endless months of anticipation that we have endured waiting for this day. It seems like we have been getting ready for Christmas since Labor Day. So, it has been a long trip to get to today. Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. The Christ child is born. We honor, celebrate, and give thanks to God for that birth by being here in Church at Mass. The baby in the manger grew up to be the man sacrificed on the Cross. Today many of us will receive Holy Communion. Our faith tells us, and we believe, that it is the real presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. Holy Communion, the Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper where He also instituted the Priesthood so that, thousands of years later, we could also receive the Body and Blood of Christ. There is no need for the Eucharist without the Priesthood and, conversely, there is no need for the Priesthood without the Eucharist. Those were some of His final acts on earth prior to His suffering, death, and resurrection. The beginning of His earthly journey is today. At Easter we celebrate His resurrection after the end of His earthly journey. God’s gift of His Son made Christmas, Easter, and our salvation possible. It all began with a teenage girl, her betrothed husband and Jesus’ birth. That is why we are here and why we celebrate.
What is it about the birth of Jesus Christ that has mesmerized the world for thousands of years? Why do billions of people celebrate this day? Why does the world, even during times of war and strife, seem to put aside differences and come together for a period of joy and peace even if brief? I believe it is an acknowledgement of God and Jesus and that things are greater than we see. There are more than over 1.2 billion Catholic Christians- the one faith that we know was founded by Jesus Christ- and billions of others who also follow Jesus Christ and are called Christian. Why? I will tell you what I think. It is not just the miracle of that birth, and what that birth brought to the world, but the miracles that led up to it.
First, you have a young teenage girl saying yes to the angel bringing the news to her that God has found favor with her and that she is going to be the mother of His son. She does not question why. She accepts it on faith alone. Her words “Let it be done unto me according your word”. Then we hear her proclaim the beginning of her famous Magnificat “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord…” Next, we have Joseph, her betrothed, who, upon learning of her unplanned pregnancy, plans to divorce her under Jewish law. Again, God intervenes. He sends an angel to tell Joseph not to divorce Mary but to take her into his home, that she has conceived this child through the Holy Spirit, and that she will bear a son and they will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. And, just like Mary, Joseph’s faith is so pure that he accepts this and says yes. Again, no questions asked. Next, we have the miracle of the birth of this child born in a manger in a stable because there was no room in the inn. A child, born to be the King of the Jews, is born surrounded by animals, and born to die in order to save us. As importantly, He was born to share in our humanity so that we could have the opportunity to share in His divinity. Did you know that the Priest or deacon prays those words while pouring a drop of water into the wine at every Mass? And yes, it is only an opportunity to share in His divinity because God gave us free will to choose. It is up to us whether or not we choose to follow Him. Through your presence here today I will venture to say that your answer is you do. You, like Mary and Joseph, and all parents who rejoice in the birth of their children, also recognize those births as miracles from God. As a parent, I can testify that we cry when our children are born. We see the miracle of life and that is cause for rejoicing. Finally, the miracle of this child’s birth is that thousands of years later people around the world still gather to worship Him and rejoice in His birth. The birth that has united people of all races and brought joy to so many even during times of war and strife. The world takes a step back, draws a deep breath and comes together in peace. Recall Christ’s words after His resurrection from the tomb when He appeared to Thomas in the upper room… “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” That belief, that miracle of faith, is what draws you here today. I would venture to say that you have seen the face of Jesus in some of the people you meet. That is not the same as what Thomas was looking for.
I read a book of daily thoughts by Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Its title is ‘Who Do You Say I Am?’ The other day I read this passage which seems so appropriate for today. Cardinal Dolan writes “…Think of the Birth of Jesus. He could have arrived with trumpets and drums, but He came in an extraordinarily simple, humble way. He was born not in a palace but in a barn, not to an earthly queen but to a meek virgin of Nazareth. He was worshipped not by the elite but by shepherds and was surrounded not by splendor but by cows, sheep, and donkeys. God came in a way so humble, simple, and routine, so gentle and quiet, that most missed Him. That’s the way He shows up now!”
Think about that for just a second. Tonight, we celebrate the birth of a baby who, from the poorest beginnings, changed, and is still changing, the world today. We are so very Blessed that this almighty, loving, and merciful Son of God and Son of Man loves us to the point of dying for us so He could save us, and so we can join Him in heaven.
Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God for the greatest present of all – His son. The loving presence of Jesus Christ is in your heart and your home. That is the present we want to find in our home daily- not just today. May you be surrounded by family and friends and swaddled, like a baby in a manger, in the love of Jesus Christ today and always.
Merry Christmas to all of you and your loved ones. May our Almighty, Merciful and Loving God guide, protect and Bless you all. If you are traveling, please travel safely, be patient and be the presence of Jesus to all you meet.