Christmas Eve – 5 pm Family Vigil & Pageant (Fr. Gribowich homily)

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Another round of applause! That was great, now you get to go back to your parents. Christmas is over now. [laughter, applause]

For those of you who may not been to a mass I’ve done before, I’m Fr. John, and I always like to begin by doing a little interaction here, let’s say: God is Good!  Say, All the Time!

Let’s try it out: God is Good! All the Time!

All the Time! You say, God is Good! Very smart. So All the Time! God is Good! 

One more time: God is Good! All the Time! All the Time! God is Good!

Very good, God is very good today because we’re finally here at Christmas, right? We finally got here. All of the anticipation, all of the asking questions of Santa’s coming. All of the planning of what you’re getting from Santa – so now we’ve arrived. So let’s hopefully hope that everything has worked out right tonight – let’s continue to pray.

You know, one thing I love about the Christmas scene is that we always here of the story, with all of the characters that have become very important to the whole story, but the one character – characters we are going to focus on today are the sheep, the sheep. 

Now who were playing the sheep? Oscar and George, did I get that right?

So you are Oscar, and you must be George. Great job, because you did a great job because you did exactly what I was told you were going to do, perfectly. Kind of a little directionless, that is really good! You played the part perfectly!

So how many of you, living here in Brooklyn, have ever been to a farm or somewhere where you actually encountered live sheep? All right. Pretty good. About 10 of you. Great!

Now, it’s so interesting that when you are on a farm and you see sheep, they are kind of a little confusing creatures. They get lost very easily. They hit into poles a lot. And a lot of times, you have to make sure, especially in places like Ireland where there tons of sheep, make sure whose are who – they wander everywhere – they start scraping them back to know whose are who. They wander all over the place. These sheep are unpredictable types of creatures, very much like children, right? Very unpredictable.

And the thing is that though if there is one image that starts at the whole nativity scene and continues through the entire gospel, is this whole image of us, the people, of being sheep, in relationship to Jesus, who calls himself the The Good what? The Good Shepherd. Right? Jesus uses the imagery of sheep a lot. Remember, that in that really beautiful parable that begins, you know if there is a shepherd and there’s one sheep who goes off and runs far away, wouldn’t that shepherd go after that one sheep and leave the other 99 by themselves? Jesus gives us that parable for a very strong lesson, because no shepherd in their right mind would ever leave 99 sheep unattended to go after one. He would have to just cut his losses and say sorry, I can’t get that guy. 

But Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, says there is not one sheep that is not important. Every single one is important, especially the sheep that strays the most. If there is ever a reason for why we celebrate Christmas, and why we rejoice in this celebration, is because Jesus who comes to us this night gives us the confidence that we do not do this thing all by ourselves, on our own. We can not do this thing all by ourselves, on our own. If we think we can, we are fooling ourselves.

The great gift of Christmas is that Jesus comes to us as a baby, helpless, but also we know him as the Good Shepherd to help us. He comes helpless in order to help us. What. We have to become helpless just like the baby. We have to become as directionless as the sheep.  And what sound does the sheep make all the time? Baah! Someone here knows how to play a sheep well.

The thing is, all that is a sign for help, but the sheep what to know where their mother is, where they are supposed to go. It is a sign for help. And that is what prayer is for us. It is our “baah”. We have to just call out for help. And that‘s what it means to not rely on by yourself, to call out for help.

We celebrate the spirit of this great feast of Christmas, and here we have this pageant with the very innocent children, and the story that we’ve heard countless amounts of times, and we look at it as all kind of very sentimental and pretty, but there is a great divine truth that is revealed to us in this night. The divine truth is that we not do this by ourselves. Jesus wants us to be sheep, He wants to call out to him, especially when we feel directionless, especially when we don’t know where things are going, he wants us to “baah” louder. 

That is why we rejoice in this night, and also as you come to this mass, as you come to any mass, you are given a tangible sign that you do not walk through this life alone. We not only celebrate something that happened 2,000 years ago, we are able to enter into that mystery through Holy Communion. When we receive the Eucharist tonight, we are receiving the Christ Child, we are receiving the Good Shepherd, we are receiving what we need in order to leave these doors tonight and realize we have everything we need to face whatever is going on in our lives. Especially waking up tomorrow morning with your kids looking for where’s Santa, OK? and dealing with in-laws and all that other stuff you have to deal with.       

So let’s rejoice tonight. Let us rejoice in being the sheep that God has called us to be. Let us rejoice that we have a Good Shepherd who never leaves one sheep by itself. Amen?

That is why God is Good: All the Time. All the Time: God is Good. 

God bless you. Let us stand.