So here’s a flattering thought….
A number of people that have asked about my homily on Christmas day. So instead of emailing it to a ton of people, why not get more hits on the blog? (I know, it’s all about “I”.) Besides, it’s still the Octave of Christmas. So here we go!
I pray that this preaching brings the world closer to the Newborn Savior!
In the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry wakes up Christmas morning with all of his Christmas presents at the foot of his bed. Being that Harry is an orphan and was abused by his aunt and uncle for years, Harry hadn’t even imagined that anyone would think about getting him anything for Christmas. Yet here he was, with a bundle of packages wrapped with his name on it. He couldn’t have been anymore surprised.
He got a flute whittled from Hagrid, a box of chocolate frogs from Hermoine, and a fifty pence piece from his aunt and uncle and his famous invisibility cloak.
One present stands out for me. The mother of his best friend hand-knitted Harry an emerald green sweater and a box of homemade fudge. In fact, for the next six years, Harry would receive a hand-knitted something from Mrs. Weasley. Ron, Ginny and their brothers would all receive sweaters every single Christmas. For Ron, his sweaters are always maroon, brightly clashing with his red hair.
Harry, Ron, Ginny, all of them, would get sweaters every single year. Hand-woven sweaters by a mother that truly loves and cares for them, tailor made for their needs. And on Christmas day, everyone in the family would try on their sweaters and wear them for the Christmas feast. Every year, the family would get personalized sweaters, and they would wear them on Christmas day.
But the thing is, the day after Christmas, the sweaters would be put in a drawer and forgotten. The annual Christmas sweaters would be worn for one day, then put in the back closet, folded up and forgotten, stacked on top of the sweater from the year before, which is stacked on top of the sweater the year before that. Folded, forgotten, out of sight, out of mind.
These gifts, hand made, time poured and spent for each individual, and the gift is simply squandered, used for a day, and then forgotten, right next to the Christmas lights, the fake tree and the plastic reindeer.
Today is Christmas Day. Today, we remember that the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Father’s most precious possession, the Prince of Peace, was given to us as a gift. Jesus of Nazareth was born to us this day. We remember that Jesus was born of Mary in Bethlehem.
God’s most perfect gift. The Son of God, Jesus Christ, was born this day. He was born, grew up, played with his cousins, spent time with his aunts and uncles, learned how to be a carpenter. He had friends and family. He had the entire human experience. He was hungry, he was happy, he laughed, he was angry, he danced, he sang. He had the full human experience. Anything and everything that we experience on an hourly basis, Jesus too experienced. There was not one emotion, not one experience, that Jesus did not have. And this man, this God, is a gift….a gift to you. Today. Right here. Right now.
Jesus is given to each of you, each of us, as a gift. He is sent to us to show us how to be whole, how to be holy. By his very life, his words and his example, Jesus has shown us how to live, how to be happy, how to flourish in this life. By his examples and words, he has shown us a way love God, each other, and ourselves, without reservation, without hesitation. Jesus is a gift. A gift that teaches us to be whole, how to be holy.
However, it’s one thing to receive a gift. But it’s completely different from living the gift. It is one thing to receive a gift, it is another to use the gift throughout our lives. It’s one thing to wear the Weasley family sweater to make Mrs. Weasley happy on Christmas day, but it is another to wear it on a regular basis, using it, washing it, showing it off, pulling it over our heads when it is cold, taking it out of the drawers when we see it, loving the gift as much as loving the gift-giver.
It is one thing to appreciate the gift of Christ in our world. Acknowledge that Jesus has shown us a way to flourish. To recognize that Jesus wants us to be healed from our issues and faults. That Jesus wants us to have a life that is worth remembering.
But it is another thing to live the gift we have been given. To take this gift seriously. To accept this gift into our lives. To allow Jesus to have a seat at our dining table and our living rooms. By allowing ourselves to pray. Allowing ourselves to read the Gospels and ponder the words given to the shepherds. To pull our rosaries from our kitchen drawers and allow ourselves to remember the mysteries. To have the courage to come to Church every Sunday.
To not simply be a good person—a person who pays their taxes and baptizes their children and enrolls their kids in little league baseball. But to be a holy person, a person with people can admire, a person of example, a person in which people look to for advice and mercy.
To look at young children and ponder what it was like for Mary and Joseph to hold the Prince of Peace in their arms.
It is one thing to accept the gift of Jesus. It is another thing to live this gift in the here and now.
Harry never admitted it, but Ron often gave away his sweaters. To House-Elves, to whoever. But for most of us, there will be those presents which we force a smile on our face, thank the giver graciously, and eventually, shove the gift to a bottom drawer into the pit of unwanted gifts.
Will the Child Christ be found in this drawer? Will this little child, precocious, wise and knowing, be found in the pile of broken Christmas ornaments, plastic reindeer and mechanical Santas? Or will he be welcome at your Christmas feast? Will he be present when you wake up tomorrow morning? Will you take him when you travel back home? When you go to work? Will he be present when you fight with your spouse, when you disciplining your children?
We have been given a Great and Immortal Gift—the Gift of the Son of God. May we receive this gift, live this gift and be present to him as he is to us.