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The Nativity of the Lord
December 25, 2021

Watch this homily! (Begins at 54:00)

   I sometimes find myself wishing that I could just sit still for Christmas - quietly sit back in some hidden corner and simply absorb the wonder of it all – the joy, the mystery, the peace. But something tells me I’m in the wrong line of work for that to happen! Monks may get to sit still for Christmas, but not parish priests. And you don’t get to sit still for Christmas, either, do you?

     But maybe that’s okay. Mary and Joseph didn’t sit still for Christmas. There was that census in Bethlehem, so far from Nazareth. The shepherds didn’t sit still either. They were awakened during their night watch by angels who hurried them off to the stable. And the Magi were on the move for a long time, as they followed a star that called out to them from the night sky.  And, of course, God wasn’t sitting still at Christmas, either. In one marvelous moment, unique and never to be repeated, God traveled the infinite distance between heaven and earth to become one of us.

     So, there’s good precedent for a busy Christmas, a Christmas on the move, wouldn’t you agree? And if you feel just a little tired and out of breath at this moment, consider yourself in very good company: the company of shepherds and sages, the company of saints and angels; the company of God!  And, my friends, it is their company that can redeem our Christmas fatigue, turn our busyness and our breathlessness, our sometimes frantic running around, into something good, something holy: a journey of the heart, a journey of the soul.

     Will you join me for a few moments on that journey?  Happily, there are no reservations to be made ahead of time, no tickets to be purchased. And the itinerary?  The itinerary is open-ended because, while the destination is certain, there are many ways to get there. As for packing: traveling light is always best but, I’m happy to say, you can take with you all your complicated personal history: your failures, heartaches, disappointments, doubts, and dreary compromises - and, of course, your accomplishments and achievements, whether great or small. And if the negatives you carry seem to outweigh the positives, you needn’t worry: you will be leaving more room for God to work wonders of healing and grace.

     This journey we are on is, of course, a journey to the kingdom, God’s kingdom, but the stopping-off place today is the manger. It is there that we can lay down our burdens as the Magi laid down their gifts. We lay them down before the Child who accepts whatever we bring - this Child who is one of us yet so much more than us, this child who reveals to us the most unbelievable sort of God: not a remote, thundering, demanding, omniscient Being before whom we can only cower in fear; no, a tiny, vulnerable, utterly helpless baby in the arms of his mother. All the power of the Godhead in a powerless infant – as if to say, who can be afraid of a God like this?

     My friends I think we live far too much of our lives in fear of God and far too little of them basking in God’s love.  Think what our lives would be like if we really believed that God loves us unconditionally. And think what our world would be like if we really believed that God has this same love for every person on this earth. Every person. What would happen to all our sad divisions, our hateful discriminations, our inclination to resort to violence in order to stake our claims or settle our scores?

     I’m dreaming, I know. But didn’t God dream on Christmas?  Dream that becoming one of us could somehow change us?  And it can! Not all at once, no, for Christmas is not the end of our journey – it’s the beginning. Christmas means that God is with us right in the midst of our lives – often messy, but blessed nonetheless. Whatever is happening to us, there is God holding us close in our joys and sorrows, our struggles and our successes, our trials and our triumphs. And God is in the midst of our world, too: our world that’s so full of beauty but so violent and so very vulnerable - as the pandemic has taught us and keeps teaching us.

     I like the way the late Jesuit theologian, Cardinal Avery Dulles, put it, “In becoming one of us, God does not provide us with a ladder by which to escape the struggles of life and scale the heights of heaven. No, in becoming one of us, God enables us to burrow deep into the heart of our humanity and to find that humanity shimmering with divinity.”

     Dear friends, our lives are shimmering with divinity and so is our world. But we have to burrow deeply in order to see that. And the best way to see is to go to the manger because the child of Bethlehem is proof positive that there is really no limit to what we can be or become, proof positive that we and our world are beautiful beyond belief, more loveable than we know and, yes, “shimmering with divinity!”

Father Michael G. Ryan





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Seattle, Washington  98104
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