Readings from the Mass at Night are found here.
My dear brothers and sisters, how blessed we are. It may not always seem that way, if we think of the trials of life, the difficulties, the tragedies, the losses and the like. But we are truly blessed and I am sure that that realization has brought you to this Church to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. Do we feel blessed? Do we have that feeling that the Lord is with us? I imagine that in this Church this evening (morning) (afternoon) some of us do and some of us don’t. But, that does not change the fact that we are here, and here for a reason.
Our first reading this evening (morning) (afternoon) presents such a powerful message as to why we are here. Isaiah wrote: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” How often do we feel that life is so overwhelming, between job and family, illness, deaths, and bitter tragedies? How often do we feel that we trudge through life that seems endless and without direction? Where is that light spoken about by Isaiah, when all we might see around us is gloom? Where is that light, when all we might be able to see in front of us is darkness?
Isaiah went on to write that “the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster has been smashed.” Does it feel as if our work is easy? Does it feel as if we are free? Does it feel as if we are unburdened? What in the world is Isaiah talking about – this doesn’t seem to be the world that we live in!
In fact, it is NOT the world that we are called to live in; it is NOT the world that the Lord has built for us. Although we live in this world, we are called to place our minds, hearts, and souls in the realm of Heaven. St. Paul writes in his letter to Titus, the second reading from this evening (morning) (afternoon), “The grace of God has appeared, saving all, and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires, and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age.” First of all, the grace of God has appeared. Jesus has come into our world; today we celebrate His birth, his coming unto us to bring us the free gift of grace from God. But, second, that grace comes with a purpose – it is grace to strengthen us to reject godless ways, and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age. We have a choice now. Are we as eager to receive this Christmas present into our hearts as we might to receive the new television, the new shoes, or the new game? Are we as eager to grow closer to God and receive the Christmas present of His grace in our hearts as we are to attend Christmas dinners and parties? My dear brothers and sisters, Christmas is about the grace that God offers us, first in the birth of His Son, but continuing in our hearts as we live our lives in this world. We have the choice to accept it or reject it. We can return the gift, and select another, although I would say that would be a poor choice.
Why should we accept the Lord’s gift of grace? Quite simply, it is because only God can bring us joy and peace. The new shoes might bring some moments of happiness, the television hours of enjoyment, the new game some amount of fun. The parties and the dinners might raise our spirits and fill our bellies. But, all those things are fleeting, they all come to an end, they are all only partial joys. And, not one of them can bring us peace, for we will have disagreements over what show to watch, the shine on the shoes will get scuffed, and the game will result in a loser. Parties and dinners sometimes result in the old resentments and difficulties being brought up. These “celebrations” of Christmas do not bring what Christ Jesus came to bring us.
The angel declared to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid; for behold I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David, a savior has been born who is Christ the Lord.” The angels then broke out into song exclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Christ Jesus, born today for us brings us God’s grace and brings us salvation. There is no salvation for you or me without Him or God’s grace working in our lives. There is no lasting joy for you or me without Him or God’s grace working in our lives. There is no peace for you or me without Him or God’s grace working in our lives.
I asked earlier: Do we feel blessed? Do we feel the Lord is with us? Is our work easy, are we unburdened, are we free? Do we walk in gloom and darkness? Those questions are for you to ponder. If we do feel blessed and unburdened and free and if we do walk in the light, gloom free, I am certain that we know the Lord in our lives. If not, perhaps it is we who are resisting the gifts that Christ came to bring. Perhaps, we are kind of returning the gift He wants to share with us.
How do we accept the graces that God wants us to accept? We accept it through faithful prayer and worship. We need to pray every day from our hearts. We need to share everything with the Lord, and that takes some effort on our parts. We need to have a loving relationship with the Lord that can occur with no other human being. We also need to worship faithfully. We need to come together at Church to experience the Sacraments, God’s grace being given into our lives. If we are not at Mass, we cannot receive God’s graces in the Eucharist. If we do not confess our sins, we cannot be forgiven of them by God and receive His grace to amend our lives, and live temperately and devoutly in this life as St. Paul encouraged. In short, we are nothing without God in our lives.
So today, on this Christmas day, let us open ourselves to receive Him. Let us resolve to do everything in our power to receive God’s grace into our hearts, to accept His love, to accept His peace, and to accept His joy – the love, the peace, and the joy that is everlasting. Let us greet our newborn Savior with praise! Merry Christmas!