Lynne Smith’s Homily from Christmas Day, December 25, 2015

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Christmas Day Homily – 12/25/2015                                                         Lynne Smith, OSB

When I was a child on Christmas Eve my family gathered at our crèche to sing Christmas carols before we went to bed. I liked to sit in front of our Christmas crèche in the dark and look at the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds. I felt loved and peaceful. I wanted that peace and love to last all year, but I knew even as a child that the world was not all peaceful. Jesus was born in those days long ago, but I only imagined him in heaven in my days. So I hoped God would swoop down out of heaven one day to wipe out all the bad things from the earth and make things right again.

 

Now as an adult I believe Christmas it is not just about Jesus being born back in THOSE days or God coming ONE DAY in great power to wipe out all evil-doers. Instead, the message is that TODAY God is with us. THIS DAY a Savior is born to us. The angels’ message is not just for some day, but for this day, today.

 

I’ll admit that my skeptical mind wants to say, “Where is God now? When the news is all about violence; when I go to the gym and hear people talking behind me about using concealed weapons because they are afraid for their families, where is the peace?” But this skepticism only leads to fear and a contraction of life and I don’t want to live in that space.

 

There is something in me that still wants and needs to hear the message of the angels. Something in me wants to run like the shepherds to “see this thing that has taken place.”

 

The story of Jesus’ birth turns our hearts to see that “this day” Jesus is born among us. This day God invites us to join in the new life. Even in the midst of these days of violence, fear, greed, God is present among us.

 

The signs of God’s presence are still small and easily missed. We still see them most easily in children with their simple presence and open-hearted love. I heard God’s presence in their letters to Helping Hands in the paper last week. Among them was this simple note: “I would give $200 to Leland because he doesn’t have a home.” – 1st grader. And this one. “Have you ever loved someone so much that cared for you, and you wanted to return the favor? I think my mom deserves $200 so she can live for longer. My first reason is to try curing her cancer. I know this because she told me two months ago, and I was so devastated when I heard. If you gave $200, not only will I be happy, but my mom will too….” 5th grader (Wisconsin State Journal, week before Christmas, 2015)

 

TODAY the message of the angels is, “Do not be afraid. To you is born … a Savior.” God is among us as a saving presence. As self-reliant Americans we don’t think in terms of needing a Savior. But this year we might need to be saved from a fear that threatens to shut down our lives until there is no room for others, no room for joy or no room for hope.

 

We might see signs of God’s saving presence in Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, who welcomed refugees last week with the words: “You’re home.” Perhaps the refugees being housed in an old army barracks in the town of Messtetton, Germany experience God’s saving presence in the towns people’s hospitality. They give me hope that we can still live with hearts open to one another. Messtetten, a town of 10,000, is hosting more than 3,000 refugees. “Rolf Held, the town’s United Methodist pastor, says that 150 local volunteers have made the operation run smoothly. An appeal for warm clothing for the refugees was rescinded when residents overwhelmed organizers with donations.

 

“The relationship works both ways. One woman in Held’s congregation lives with multiple sclerosis. She became friends with an Iranian refugee family that volunteered to help her paint her house and clean her garden.” (“Room at the Inn?” Christian Century, December 9, 2015, p. 12.)

 

Another person who gives me hope is Pope Francis who points us to the joy of the Gospel. He calls us to become signs of God’s presence on earth by living in mercy and caring for creation.

 

I see in you gathered here today signs of God’s presence. You who tutor children and take food to your neighbors. You who walk with people newly released from prison. You who serve and eat with guests at Luke House. You who work for justice through political action and advocacy. You who love and care for your children are nurturing hope in them and in us.

 

Together we can be a sign of God’s presence. God will not come swooping down from the sky. Instead God comes in small acts. God’s peace grows up among us as we participate in it. We catch a glimpse of God’s presence when we look into each other’s eyes and say: “Body of Christ. Blood of Christ.” We strengthen our hope in the angels’ messagewhen we join hands and pray “May your day dawn. Your will be done.” We proclaim this good news when we sing: “Joy to the earth. The Savior reigns.” May we live in the mystery of Jesus’ birth with open hearts proclaiming a message of mercy and peace.

 

 

 

Intercessions – Christmas Day

Let us pray:

  • For the peace that comes about through justice and for all who work for justice, we pray…
  • For refugees and migrants and all who are homeless that they may find a humane welcome and the means to rebuild their lives, we pray…
  • For the grace to incarnate the presence of God in our communities and our lives, we pray…
  • For all for whom this season is difficult, for those who are mourning, who are ill, who are estranged from family and friends, we pray…
  • For what else shall we pray?
  • For those in our books of intentions and those whom we mention quietly now…, we pray,

Light of life, you came in flesh, born into human pain and joy, and gave us power to be your children. Grant us faith, O Christ, to see your presence among us, so that all creation may sing new songs of gladness and walk in the way of peace. Amen.

Let us offer one another a sign of Christ’s peace.

 

 

 

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