Last Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Advent we heard the story of Mary giving her ‘yes’ to God. Mary was confused, perplexed, afraid and yet she was in touch with grace – with her own inner goodness – a goodness that each person gathered here, physically or virtually possesses – Mary got in touch with that goodness and from that goodness she said, “Yes!”
In our first reading from Isaiah, words of comfort ring out! Light has come to the darkness. Joy has come to the people. The People of Israel experience liberation from their oppressors and freedom from the burdens they carry. The promised child has been born. This child will be so much for the People, will do so much for the People. This child will become Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. This child will use his power and authority to build a kingdom of peace and justice, which will last forever. This is God’s promise!
In the Gospel we hear again the story of the birth of Jesus. The Word of God has come to earth – fully human, born just like us: frail, tiny, helpless and yet filled with so much promise. The angel announces his coming to the poor and frightened shepherds, the least among the People of Israel. By the time the angels are finished their songs of praise, the curiosity of the shepherds leads them to abandon their flocks and seek out this child who will bring peace to the world.
St. Paul, in his letter to Titus says clearly, the grace of God has appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. In him we will be forgiven and saved. He has taught us how to live. He is building up a people who will walk in his footsteps – they will be focused on doing good things – rejecting sin and choosing God.
These readings remind us of who we are. They remind us of who our God is.
At times when I have my hat of judgement firmly in place and I have my dark glasses filtering out the light, I think about how messy, broken, incomplete and hateful our world is. I see only the bad and the ugly. When things are really bad, I wonder if Jesus really is the Son of God and if he really is the Savior of the World. When I am trapped in my own way of seeing, I am unable to recognize the presence of God.
Christmas is a really important feast because we are given the opportunity to connect with one another and to hear again our sacred stories. Our connections and our sacred stories help us to look and to see beyond the coldness, the brokenness, the incompleteness and the sin that surrounds us. The scriptures remind us of what God promised. The scriptures remind us that God fulfilled that promise and continues to fulfill it in you and me. The scriptures tell us that the Promise is renewed and experienced from now until the end of time.
Today we get to choose between darkness and light, between freedom and oppression, between joy and despair, between goodness and hatred. We can choose to ignore the goodness present in the Christ child – we can choose to ignore the goodness that is present within us. When we ignore goodness and focus on evil we become small and angry, we become resentful and bitter and there is less light in the world.
Tonight, we celebrate a God who is committed to bringing light into darkness, who is committed to liberating us from our oppressors and our burdens. Tonight, we celebrate a God who walks among us, as one like us, seemingly helpless in the face of evil. We know however, that despite his death on the Cross, he was raised from the dead, he ascended into heaven and has given us the Holy Spirit.
Robert Fulgham has a wonderful story in his book, “It was on Fire when I lay Down on It”; the story is about a Greek professor who said that his mission in life was to bring light into the dark corners of the world. This was a challenge for him and it is his mission.
This pandemic has tipped our lives upside down. It has caused suffering around the world. The suffering has touched every corner of our lives. It has touched our family, our work, our recreation, our learning, and it has touched the celebration of our faith. We can hunker down and be angry or we can tap into the goodness that is within us. From where we are we can choose to love, we can choose to be a source of life and of joy.
As we celebrate the great feast of Christmas let us look for ways to carry on God’s dream, the mission of Jesus. Using the words of St. Francis:
Where there is hatred let us bring love, where there is injury let us bring pardon, where there is doubt and fear let us bring faith, where there is despair let us bring hope, where there is sadness joy, and where there is darkness let us bring light.
We don’t need permission from anyone to do these things – we don’t have to leave our house to do these things, these actions do not cost money.
These actions do have the capacity to change the world.
Two thousand years ago God had a dream to change the world – to let us know that we are not alone. We share that dream. Today we are not alone. Our gathering here reminds us that we are not alone. The presence of so many people who are praying with us reminds us that we are not alone.
Today, let us be a light in the darkness. Let us be the faith, the hope and the love that our world needs!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI