December 25, 2018
Paulist Fr. Rich Andre preached this homily at the Christmas Eve Family Mass on December 24, 2018, at St. Austin Parish in Austin, TX. The homily is based on the evening’s readings: Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalm 96; and Luke 2:1-14.
We made it! After four weeks of Advent – OK, actually 3 weeks and 1½ days – when the Church advises us to wait with patience – we made it! Merry Christmas!
Every year, at the beginning of Advent, I re-share a video from bustedhalo.com called “Advent in 2 minutes.” One thing the video says: “Advent isn’t about shopping, stressing, planning, or buying. It’s about expecting, waiting, hoping, and praying. If you’re sick of Christmas by December 25…[perhaps] you haven’t [celebrated] Advent correctly.” Now, I’m sure some people here tonight have had a lot of shopping, stressing, planning, and buying in the past few weeks. But tonight, we focus on those of us here who probably aren’t sick of Christmas yet – the young of heart among us who have lived the excitement and anticipation of Advent.
Tonight, let us all try to enter into the mystery of Christmas through the eyes of children. For, after all, the miracle of Christmas centers on the birth of a child.
I’d like to invite the children forward to help me preach to all the parents out there. [Invite children to sit on the steps.]
- Why is Christmas so important for us?
- How do you think Mary felt when the angel told her that she was going to have a baby?
- How do you think Joseph felt that Mary gave birth to a baby?
- How do you think the angels felt to announce that God’s son had been born on earth?
- How do you think the shepherds felt to be the first to see the baby Jesus?
Now, I’d like to turn to the parents.
I’m forty-four years old. I’m guessing that I’m about the same age as St. Joachim, the father of Mary, at the time of the first Christmas. Now, if I learned that my unmarried daughter was pregnant, I don’t know how I’d react. If I were calm enough to ask, “How did this happen?” and she said, “I really can’t explain,” I surely would have gone through the roof.
And if my son-in-law-to-be couldn’t get his act enough together enough for my first grandchild to be born in house, but he had to spend his first days in a barn, I don’t think I would have felt a warm coziness. If I were an angel or a shepherd trying to explain why the King of the Universe had no cradle and why Mary and Joseph had no one around to support them in those first days as new parents, I’d be hard pressed to explain it in a rational way.
But thank goodness God’s ways are not our ways. A story that sounds like an abject failure by human adult standards… is the miracle of how’ve we come to understand who God is. God doesn’t wait for us to become perfect before he comes among us. God loves us as we are. God rushes to meet us, even when we think that we aren’t prepared.
Even if you feel that you didn’t celebrate Advent properly – or if you still have presents to wrap tonight, like I do – it’s OK. We don’t have to be perfect to celebrate that God is with us. We don’t have to be perfectly prepared. All we have to be is human.
And there are people among us who understand this. And apparently, 30 years after the first Christmas, Jesus took time to recognize the wise people who understood how much God loves us, just as we are. He said to the people, as he says to us tonight [indicating the children], “Amen, I say to you, [you must] turn and become like children.”
[Walk to the crèche and pick up the statue of the baby Jesus.]
“And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to those on whom his favor rests!”