Christmas Eve 2021 Lynne Smith, OSB
When I started working on this homily, I wanted to talk about how the Christmas story gives us hope. I Googled “where do we find hope at Christmas”, just to see what would come up. I was amused when Google said I could find it at Target, Walmart and Barnes and Noble. I thought “Consumerism has reached its peak.” Then I noticed Hope at Christmas is a novel, and it can indeed be purchased at Target, Walmart and Barnes and Noble if you are interested.
In these days of polarization, the disruption of COVID, the trauma of systemic racism, the degradation of the earth itself, we need the hope that the birth of Jesus promises.
In the 14th century, the mystic Meister Eckhart wrote: “What good is it to me that Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago, and I do not also give birth to the Son of God in my time and in my culture? We are all meant to be mothers
of God. God is always needing to be born.”
Jesuit Jim Hug expresses this notion in a way that takes into account the evolution of the universe as we understand it today.
“The centuries since Jesus began to open our eyes to our deeper humanly divine reality have witnessed God quietly continuing to develop the Incarnation slowly among us, building communities of trust and hope that may one day evolve with our help into a world of peace with justice and love for all. On that day, conscious of the divine life we each embody, we will embrace God within and among us all.” (“An Untraditional Advent Meditation,” in InFormation, Winter 2014, p.11).
Indeed, there is great reason to hope – not just because Christ was born 2000 years ago but because he continues to come to birth in and among us through the Spirit wherever and whenever the goodness and loving kindness of the Holy One is embodied.
Jesus was born for a little girl named Tammy who was put in foster care at the age of two. Both her parents were incarcerated. Tammy was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Susan Olley, a foster care case manager at Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services, was one of the few consistent people in Tammy’s life.
In her fifteen years, Tammy has lived in 19 foster homes, two residential facilities and six pre-adoptive homes that didn’t work out because her difficulties proved too challenging for the families. She has been hospitalized eight times for psychiatric care.
In 2010, Tammy was placed with Megan and Tim, a couple who felt more called to foster than adopt. Time and again, Tammy would seem to be on track for adoption, but it would fall through. She returned to Megan and Tim’s home several times after the pre-adoptive placements didn’t work out. Susan and others at the Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services stayed present to her each time and oversaw her care and therapy. She knew they loved her.
Last summer, after Tammy had been back with Megan and Tim for almost a year, the couple came to Susan and expressed an interest in adopting Tammy. After 5,025 days in foster care, Tammy was finally adopted on June 3, 2021. Today, she is an outgoing teenager with hopes of becoming a nurse. Her behaviors have stabilized, and she has formed a strong, healthy bond with her adoptive parents.
A community of trust and hope surrounded Tammy. Through it she experienced the goodness and lovingkindness of God – the Spirit’s work among and within them. Christ is coming to birth in Tammy and in Susan, Megan and Tim who embodied hope for her.
With eyes of faith, we can see Jesus coming to birth in many ways. It is easy to despair over the destruction of the planet. However, Katherine Kayhoe, climate scientist who fully recognizes our plight, sees hope in the millions of people who are speaking out and acting on their values to care for the earth. Individual actions alone won’t stop the destruction of the earth. But our voices and actions can change the values by which society lives. That can bring about the change we need. She suggests we see the task not as a boulder we have to push up the hill but as a boulder at the top of a hill beginning down the other side. She says.
“Talk about something that you can do together to make a difference and add your hand to that boulder, get it rolling just a little bit faster down the hill and the faster it goes, the more we look around and we see other people beside us pushing in the same direction, the more that gives us hope.”
(Interview with Oxfam Every Action Matters: A Q&A with Climate Scientist, Katharine Hayhoe November 23, 2021 By Elizabeth Endara)
We gather here to worship, to open ourselves to receive the God who lives among and within us. By God’s grace and action among us we are building a community of trust and hope. As we hear the Word come to life among us, we speak out and take action together and individually on behalf of the poor, the sick, those who have been incarcerated. We speak out and act on behalf of the earth. At this table we experience the Spirit of Jesus richly poured out on us guiding us to embody the goodness and lovingkindness of God for others.
My Jesus continue to come to birth in us.