Christmas 2018 – Vigil
Boys and girls, I’d like you to help me with my homily. I have a few questions for you. Please come up and gather around. Anyone who is 6 years old and under, please come up. If you are older than 6, but want to come up with a younger brother or sister, please do. Sit on the carpet. First question is an easy one. Whose birthday do we celebrate on Christmas? Jesus. Second question. And I want you to think about this one. If it is Jesus’ birthday on Christmas, why do you get presents on Christmas? Why do you get presents on Jesus’ birthday? A few years ago, on Christmas day when I asked my nephew who was about 3 years old whose birthday it was today, he said, “My birthday”. (His birthday is not Christmas day). He associated getting presents with his birthday. “If I’m getting presents, it must be my birthday,” he thought. Does it seem strange to you that you get presents on a day that is not your birthday? Why do you think it is that you get presents on Jesus’ birthday? Do you get presents on other people’s birthdays? Not usually. So why do you get presents on Jesus’ birthday?
You get presents on Jesus’ birthday because you represent Jesus. God loved us so much that he entered the world as a little child. He revealed himself to us not as a big and powerful king – a mighty ruler – with an army, but as a poor, defenseless child. God shows us how special children are by becoming a little child. God wants to be near to us and close to us. And he wants us to be close to him. He wants us to draw near to him – to not be afraid of him. Often God is thought of as a distant judge or a police man who is going to get us or punish us if we are bad.
In the Old Testament, God was as times revealed with thunder and lightening and fire – something scary, but when God reveals Jesus his Son to the world, he comes as a little baby in the silence of the night. By becoming a baby, God removes any barriers that separate us from Him. Everybody likes babies. Who is afraid of a baby? Everybody is fascinated by a baby and wants to hold a baby. Everybody wants to talk to a baby. And we talk to babies not in a formal way but with great tenderness and affection. We speak freely from the heart to babies in a way we wouldn’t with adults. Babies have an effect on us. They make us become more “childlike” – that is, filled with wonder and awe before the mystery of life. Ask your parents about the first time they held you. Ask them to tell you about the day you were born. Ask them to tell you how awesome it was to become a father or a mother for the first time. Ask them to tell you how they experienced a love they didn’t think was possible. And if you are not the first born, they will tell you that you brought more love out of them when they didn’t think it was possible to love any more. New life – a baby – and the new life it gives us is a miracle. Something that becomes a clear sign of the presence of God. We know God is present because he changes us in a way that didn’t come from ourselves. God comes to us as a child because he wants us to know him in this way and to speak to him in this way. He wins us over not with power and might but by speaking to our heart as a child. It is often through the birth of a child that we come to know God in a deeper way.
By becoming a child, Jesus shows us how we come to God and receive his love. “Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 18:3). What is revealed in the mystery of Christmas tells us the path to salvation. God became a child to save us, so we have to become like children to receive the gift of salvation. Babies teach us how to receive love.
God became dependent on us as a baby, so we could learn how to be dependent on God. He allowed himself to be placed in our hands so we could learn to place our lives in his hands.
Who here is baptized? By our baptism, we are made children of God – adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. By our baptism, we become other “Christs” in the world. By our baptism, the life of Jesus is born in us. And Jesus takes flesh in our life. The Christmas miracle happens again when we are baptized. Jesus dwells in us. Jesus is Emmanuel – “God with us” – not just 2000 years ago, but now – in each one of us. So each one of us who is baptized really does represent Jesus – or make him present – in the world today. It is through the life of those who are baptized – their unity – and the love they share – and the love that they draw out of us – that we meet Jesus today and that he comes into our life today. This is the mystery of the Church. We all get presents on Christmas to remind us of the gift of Christ’s presence in the world and that we are all children of God. You are a sign of God’s love in the world. You remind us to become like little children and what it means to live the joy and the freedom of being children of God. God invites us to his birthday party and he is the gift for everybody. Will we accept the invitation? Will we receive the gift? Only if we turn and become like children. May God bless you and your families this Christmas. Merry Christmas!