Christmas Eve 2020 – Fr. Rick Sherman
Mass in the Nighttime
Is 9:1-6; Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14
(The somewhat disjointed nature of this homily is partially due to the more ‘free style’ presentation of the oral homily given in church).
I almost feel like reading all the readings again, very slowly. They’re so rich in their ability to contrast this mighty God, and as Isaiah proclaims “this Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” with the simplicity of the shepherds and all the downtrodden. Those laboring under the yoke and the rod of the taskmaster. The great intermediary between God and downtrodden is the baby lying in a manger and dressed in humble, swaddling clothes. This mighty God enters into this world in utter simplicity and humility and vulnerability. What could be more personal and more revealing than that?
This is a God who wants a personal relationship and is willing to start at our level and vulnerability so we will know that He knows our true plight. It is also interesting to note that the great Wonder-Counselor and God-hero doesn’t just proclaim the Truth and then work some miracles to fix everything that ails us. No, through grace he trains us to reject godless ways and evil desires, to live temperately and justly in this age. Ultimately this new Kingdom starts coming about with the day-to-day graces and decisions that we make in our world, in our age. In our family, neighborhood, our churches and in our nations. Jesus came to change hearts, not to give us stronger and bigger swords to produce more blood-soaked cloaks and blood-soaked soil and bodies. He came to give us the joy that comes from a personal relationship and the peace of temperate living.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. What an image for most earthly ages: darkness and gloom. The plight of far too many in history. If we tune into the daily world news, it’s not hard to imagine who has most captured God’s heart. People in gloom and different stages of helplessness are all over. Isaiah goes on to say: “You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing… It doesn’t say that He sent it over; He brought them abundant joy and rejoicing. Again, very personal. He put Himself in their space no matter how precarious and volatile and downright hostile.
Again Isaiah, “For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed.” He came to the commoner and the least significant, the most imperiled.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast…. His kingdom … He confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.
Luke depicts this personal caring God,
“Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.” People who watch the animals and who must stay up all night watching those even more vulnerable. Shepherds were almost a synonym for simplicity and humility. This is also where the would-be King David got his start.
The angel in Luke, the personal messenger of God says, “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people ….. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Another good point worth pondering “…on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. God is not offering peace to just those with the most wealth and prestige or the biggest weapons. Peace comes to those on whom He shows favor.” Whomever He darn well pleases.
If we are in a place where we feel vulnerable, or insignificant or perhaps even forgotten, we should take a long pause and remember to whom God came to bring light. It is not God’s intention that so many live in gloom and darkness indefinitely. He came to save us all.
Likewise, we are sent to bring the same Light to others, especially the most vulnerable in body, mind, or spirit. We have a very fine, generous community of believers here at St. Christopher’s who make substantial effort to be present to each other and to reach out to some of the more vulnerable in the larger local community and throughout the world. Surely God is among us.
Please see in the bulletin today (Fr. Rick’s Pastoral Messages on the website) some opportunities to learn more about Christ in the world. But most of all during this week-long Octave of Christmas, REJOICE that God is really and truly among us!