I would like to invite the children in 3rd grade or younger to come to the sanctuary to help me with the homily. Please, come forward.
I would like you to answer a few questions that will help us to understand Christmas better. What has been the best Christmas present you have ever gotten?
But more importantly…. and I would like you to think about this – whey was it a great present?
You asked for it, but did you really think you were going to get it?
What makes it great – a great gift – is usually that it is something that we want – something that we are hoping for – but we really didn’t think it was possible to get it. And then we get it, or even get something that is better than we expected. The best gifts are the ones that are surprises.
And we like to surprise each other. We like to see the joy and surprise on another’s face when they open or receive a present that they were not expecting. It gives us great joy or delight to surprise another in this way. We will often plan a surprise birthday party for someone for a special birthday. Or when a man asks a woman to marry him, he usually tries to make the proposal a surprise. All this planning for a moment of surprise. Surprise is the source of great joy.
I want you to try it sometime. Do you think it would surprise your parents if you cleaned up your room on a Saturday morning without being asked to do so? How about setting the table before dinner or straightening up your toys when you are finished playing? Try giving your mom or dad a card that you make that tells them how much you love them. Or making them breakfast one day. Any of these gifts do not have to be done perfectly. What makes them special is that it is not what the person is expecting. It is the surprise that makes it memorable. Part of what makes such a gift so special and surprising for us is that it is very clear that I didn’t deserve it. It is freely given. It is not something I got because I did a job well and earned it. What the surprise gift reveals to us – and this is the surprise – is that I’m loved, really loved. We all deep down want to be loved in this way. Deep down, each one of us wants to be surprised in the sense that we know that the only thing that can make us happy is something beyond what we think is possible. We want to be loved – we long to be loved by someone who loves me even when I am not worthy of that love. It can even make us afraid in the sense that we didn’t think that it was possible to be loved that much – that there is an answer to what our heart really wants. I’ve been touched by a love that is so much bigger than me! This is what makes St. Joseph afraid when he discovers that the baby that Mary is carrying is the son of God. This is what scares the shepherds when the angels bring them news that the savior is born. I’ve been called to share in God’s plan to reveal his love to the world! I might be little or count for nothing in the eyes of the world, but I’m important in God’s eyes. This experience of surprise changes the way we see ourselves and moves us to rejoice and to share the joy – to become witnesses that God is with us.
Christmas is the time to be reminded of how God loves us in this surprising way. He comes to us in unexpected ways and he revelas himself to those and through those we would not expect. The surprising gift is that God is with us. And the gift is open to anyone who allows themselves to be surprised or amazed and then moved by the fact of this unexpected love.
So I hope you all are surprised this Christmas, not just by the presents you receive, but by the love of God and the nearness of God that those presents reveal. And then you will want to share the joy of God’s surprise with others. Merry Christmas!