Good morning, once again and Merry Christmas!
Like I said, so great to be with you today. And, you know, I’m sure I’m not the only person here, but when it comes to Christmas time, it’s pretty much impossible not to think about our childhood, to think about growing up with our childhood traditions.
I think Christmas and just the magic-ness of the whole time seems to be so reminiscent of our magical-ness of growing up, you know, where we were just caught up in wonder and mystery, caught up in just waiting to see what type of gifts we were going to receive on Christmas Day.
And of course, for me, I was kind of very much into setting things up.
Right. I mean, Christmas is a very interesting time of the year. We do a big overhaul with our homes.
Right. We put up all these things which aren’t normally there, but every year they’re the same.
So it’s like for me, it was always you had to set up the whole train set.
Right now, some people have train sets up all year round. Well, we only brought it out during Christmas.
That was the only time when he had the trains running around.
And of course, I was so into it, sending up all the little trees and all the other things like that.
And of course, along with that, I love setting up the nativity scene.
And we have a very beautiful creche over here that we see in most churches and even public places, even where I live right now in a very, very I guess you would call it very secular building.
There’s a nativity scene every time I wake up and I see in the morning.
So the nativity scene is something we’re very, very much familiar with and where it’s all definitely part of the season.
We all have our own memory of setting it up, I’m sure in some way, shape or form.
But we also may know, and I know there’s at least one person who knows in this church right now that this scene is very, very inaccurate.
Because anyone who’s been to the Holy Land – I know Marie has been recently in the Holy Land – we know that Jesus actually wasn’t born in a stable.
Stable? Of course. Is the barn right? He was born where?
Marie: In a cave.
Very good. I put you on the spot. Thank God you got that question right. Okay.
So he was actually born in a cave, and I like to always kind of sit with that idea every Christmas that Jesus, who’s called the light of the world, who is the lights of the world, is born in the darkened inner recesses of a cave.
Perhaps the most dark place in the world is where the light shows up.
I think there’s something to that, because what does the light reveal in the person of Jesus in his public ministry?
He reveals to us one simple message. And the simple message that he’s trying to enlighten the world with is that you are loved.
That’s the only message: you are loved.
And it gets even better.
You are loved not because of what you do. Not because of your skill set.
Not because of your talents. Not because of your accomplishments.
You are loved simply because you exist.
That’s the message of Jesus. But here’s the deal.
We all think it’s too good to be true. It can’t be that easy.
It can’t be so easy that we’re just love for existing.
In fact, many of us who’ve been reared Catholic, I think, were almost trained the opposite.
That you had to do all these different things, almost to earn God’s love.
You had to make sure you showed up for Mass every Sunday. You had to be these rosaries.
You had to be going to confession. You had to be doing all these different things.
And what we were trained to think was that somehow God’s always kind of disappointed with us.
He’s always upset with us in some way, shape or form. We’re never doing it right.
So we’ve got to do all these things in order to get in his good graces.
Now I say that because as a priest, I talk to people in their seventies and their eighties who still say those things to me
and are still carrying around that way of understanding their relationship with God.
And quite frankly, it’s really sad. I’m not blaming anyone.
But in our whole attempt to try to share the gospel, we’ve taken the sense of duty as being more obligation rather than a means to be vying for for the gift of who God is.
Because that’s ultimately what all this stuff’s about, coming to mass, going to confession, praying, devotions, all the things that make us Catholic.
They’re all just little activities that we do purposefully to say, Thank you, God, for the great gift of yourself that reveals that I am loved.
Thank you, Jesus, for revealing through your light that I am loved.
I think the way to be able to integrate the cave into our own life is to realize that we are stuck in a world that we wish was somehow different.
We all know people in our lives who we wish were somehow different.
We all have lots of people who really annoys.
And Christmas is one of those times where sometimes we have to break bread with those people.
But if we just turn on the news, we all know there is different sides of everything and this person is not talking to this person and we just set up these walls and that other person there.
And what they embody is completely evil. They don’t understand.
They’re intolerant. They’re judgmental. Boom, boom, boom. We do it all the time.
And what it’s trying to say is that we wish that the world we live in was different.
We wish that people would just kind of think like us 24/7. If we could somehow be the light of the world revealing to everyone how to think, that would be pretty cool.
But we realize that’s impossible.
But is change possible?
Is it possible for people who we really fundamentally disagree with?
Is it possible for them to change? Is it possible for people who do heinous, criminal, horrible things?
Is it possible that they could change? Well, the great feast of Christmas gives us the answer.
And the answer is simple. You better believe it. Change is definitely possible.
But how does it start? It starts in the inner recesses of our own cave.
The inner recesses of the cave of our heart, the deep, dark places that we sometimes don’t want to look at and we don’t necessarily want to invite God into.
Because the reason why we get so frustrated with other people is because we haven’t allowed ourselves to change.
We haven’t allowed ourselves to deal with our own fears, our own insecurities, our own lack of control of situations.
And because of that, we constantly just spill the blame on others.
I do this and say this out of personal experience.
I’m not saying this because this is what other people do. It’s what I do.
Whenever I see someone bothering me. I now have to ask myself, What’s it about me that I don’t like about myself, that somehow is revealing its ugliness in another?
And so on Christmas. Rather than setting up the stable, we go to a different place of stability.
The stability that our identity rests in, the fact that we are beloved daughters, beloved sons of a loving God.
That’s the stable. And what we give to Jesus, at this stable are those things that we allow the light in the inner cave of our heart to reveal?
Our fears, our insecurities, our need to be in control.
That is the greatest gift to give to Jesus.
We all know the Christmas season culminates with the three Kings giving gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
But the true gift that we can all give to Jesus this Christmas and every single day of our lives is to give him our fears, our insecurities and all the hurts, angers and pains that we have.
Those things that we keep on blocking the light out of in the inner recesses of the cave of our hearts.
Those are the things that Jesus wants.
And you think, “Well, that’s a crummy gift.” Well, guess what?
When you give that gift, it’s saying to Jesus, You are the center of my life, not my fears.
Not my insecurities. Not all my judgments.
Not all the ways I wish things were different. You are the center.
And for the person who I look at, who I really, really can’t stand.
Guess what? You’re the center of that person’s life, too.
And the light that shines in the darkness of the inner recesses of the cave of my heart also shines in that other person.
Do they know it? Most likely not. But do we know?
What about ourselves? Most likely not either. We’re all walking around searching for meaning.
We’re all walking around trying to do the best we can with what we got.
We all have the same fundamental desire to somehow live in this world and be happy.
But Jesus, the light of the world, shows to us that you can only be happy when you realize that your life is not your own.
That your life in itself is a gift.
I don’t think anyone in this church ever made the decision to be born.
I don’t think anyone in this church ever made a decision to live in 2022 on the heels of a big global pandemic and dealing with all the other things that we’re dealing with in our world and in our church and things like that.
No one made those decisions. In a certain sense, we were gifted to be in this time, and we may wish that we lived in a different time.
And maybe Christmas is a time when we start to get sentimental and wish that things were different.
But the only thing that needs to be different is if we change ourselves.
And allow our inner fears, our inner securities insecurities to be brought to the stable.
To receive the stability that only comes as a beloved son and daughter of God.
Let us pray that as we set up our trees that are probably already set up and our train sets and everything else that we set up this year to remind us of the constancy of tradition.
May we always be reminded that Jesus is the true stability in a world that sometimes looks like it’s gone mad?
May God bless. You may be able to receive that gift today, but more importantly, give the gift of your fears, your insecurities, and those things that are hidden to Jesus today.