Merry Christmas to one and to all:
to young and old, to neighbor and stranger,
to Catholic, Christian, Muslim and Jew.
We gather together today,
people from many walks of life.
St. Agnes parishioners….yes…and more besides.
Boundaries that tend to keep us apart
seem to melt away at Christmas time.
We live during times of increasing senseless violence.
More and more people are misusing force and power
to get their way or to get what they want,
to settle their differences,
to get the world’s attention,
to promote their own ideology
and to get revenge and retaliation for the harm visited upon them.
These actions and responses cause death
and leave darkness in their wake.
But all is not lost.
There is a light that overcomes this darkness
there is a life that is greater than death;
there is a way to build up and not tear down,
a way to be at peace.
We embrace this light, we welcome this life, we yield to these ways
as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World.
God has come to us, taken on our flesh, taken on our humanity
to show his unbounded love
and to save us from spiritual ruin and eternal demise.
Emmanuel has come to set us free from the shackles of sin
and to show us the ways of righteousness and truth.
Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords, and King of kings,
has made his dwelling among us.
It is our hope that on this day
he will make his dwelling within us.
There was a story that circulated after the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center about a Native American boy and his grandfather. The boy asked his grandfather, "Grandfather, how are you doing after what happened on Sept. 11?"
The grandfather replied, "My son, I have two wolves within me. The first is the wolf of anger, vengeance and hatred. It sees the suffering of innocent people, it is saddened by the tremendous loss of life and wants to respond to the perpetrators in kind.
"The other one is the wolf of reconciliation and peace. It too understands the horror of what has happened. It sees the children who have lost parents, the friends who have lost loved ones, and the fear and anxiety it created in peoples' lives."
And the grandson asked, "And which wolf will prevail?"
"The one that I feed, my son," The grandfather replied. “The one I feed.”
In the face of hatred and violence,
as we are confronted by the inhumanity
visited upon the innocent, the weak, the vulnerable in our world
it is tempting to respond in kind….
do to others what they have done to destroy human life.
This only feeds the wolf of anger and vengeance.
Of all days throughout the year
we gather here in this church on the Feast of the Nativity of Christ
to feed our hearts and our souls,
to feed our minds….
with goodness, and truth, and love.
This is the only way the wolf of reconciliation and peace will prevail.
On this day, in this place,
we feed our faith.
God’s love for us and for our world
is stronger than we can imagine.
This God, our God, has made his presence known through Jesus Christ.
We renew our trust and our belief
that the promise of salvation has been fulfilled
and that by grace and spirit
what is broken, i.e., the human heart,
can be fixed, can be healed, can be restored.
The human heart can be reborn, experience new life,
and be set on fire with new hope.
God has provided the remedy for the wayward human heart.
We see this remedy in the birth of the child Jesus.
He comes into our world not with great power
but in and through the powerlessness of a new-born.
This one event, this one person,
holds the possibility of not only touching and renewing our individual hearts,
this one person, Jesus Christ, Son of God,
is the only person who holds the possibility of unifying people
across all cultures and all traditions.
I have no doubt:
there is someone here that feels on edge, feels empty, feels lost.
There is someone here that feels overwhelmed, beaten down.
There is someone here who has surrendered to cynicism
given in to the voices of disbelief.
If there is one message that comes to us at Christmas time it is this…
“don’t give up. Don’t give in.
Don’t give up on the world.
Don’t give up on your family.
Don’t give up on yourself.
Don’t give up on God.
Stand in the light of the Christmas star.
Let it’s brilliance capture your heart.
Stand tall and confident and alive and bold in your faith.
Look and see once again how God has come into the world.
Re-connect with that spirit
that for the last 2000 years
has carried countless souls beyond the hurt,
beyond the suffering, beyond the wounds of this broken world.
The answers we seek, the answers we’re looking for
to help us regain a spirit of hope
will not be found under a Christmas tree wrapped in paper and bow.
They will be found in the Christmas crib
wrapped in swaddling clothes.
We can each make a choice, right here, right now
to open our hearts,
consciously enter into the presence of God with attentiveness and faith.
Then open our lips, raise our voices in song.
That’s right. Today, everybody sings.
No matter how bad you think you sound,
no matter how often your spouse and your children
have threatened to move to the other side of the church,
sing the words of Silent Night and Hark the Herald Angels Sing
and Joy to the World.
Praise God with full voice.
Trust that angels will drown you out. Just don’t get carried away.
There’s something extraordinary, exceptional, about this season, these songs.
I guarantee you, something inside you will be touched, stirred to life,
moved to piety and prayer.
It happened to Scrooge. It happened to the Grinch.
There’s something inside all of us waiting to be awakened:
a spirit of human kindness, the power of love,
a belief in goodness and compassion and connection,
a hope that life can be different,
that sins can be forgiven,
that wounds can be healed
and that living in a world where we are together
is much better than living in a world where we are apart,
separated by the insensitivity, apathy, stubbornness, the cluelessness of our past.
It is my hope, it is my prayer
that each and every one of us will leave this church
with hearts lifted up,
with some sense of a new direction for our lives,
with our faith strengthened
and our spiritual integrity re-invigorated.
All because we have looked upon our savior
and let the light he brings into the world
shine into the depths of our very souls.
Remember this: we cannot radiate more light to others than we ourselves receive.
Think about it.
“Make our hearts ready, O Lord, to receive and cherish
the gift of your son. Amen!”
Merry Christmas to one and to all: