Dec 24, 2016

Christmas 2016: "Come to Jesus!"

(The Nativity Story)

"The People who walked in darkness have seen a great light"

Is 9: 1-6
Titus 2: 11 - 14
Lk 2: 1-14

Have you ever been confronted by a family member, a superior, a spouse or even a close friend, or done so with any of them, and suggested a "come to Jesus" meeting?  The point of that expression is to emphasize that this particular person or an especially troubled situation can only be resolved by a serious meeting of the minds. It's time to stop dancing around the issue and confront it head on. 

This Christmas season strikes me as a time we have all been invited to the ultimate "Come to Jesus" encounter.  What is the problem? Our sin.  What, or who, is the solution? Christ Jesus himself who is God's good news of hope and promise to a world that is broken and divided.  Yet, there is no doubt that the scene of the manger in Bethlehem is one of peace and innocence.  

We have two simple, poor parents who gaze with love on a newborn child.  Angels sing in the night sky and shepherds gently bow in adoration at this mysterious child-king.  Later, the Magi appear who stand in wonder then offer their gifts. The Magi by tradition were pagan priests from likely the eastern area around Iraq or Iran who studied the movements of the stars and planets and determined man's destiny by them.  It seems God used this religion of earthly creation to lead the Magi to see God's truth in the flesh through the guidance of a star. 

So, we may be tempted to feel the coming of God in the flesh is all about sentimentality: love, gentleness and generically just getting along with one another; a kind of feel good season. While living in peace is certainly an element of our faith, the point of Jesus' coming was to invite all of us to a radical change of life - conversion, a new direction and purpose for living.  We hear this in both the Advent and Lenten season.  St. John the Baptist offers his clarion call along the Jordan River where his plea of "repent" was met with both acceptance and rejection. 

The point of Christmas, then, is that God, of his own free initiative, has embraced our sinful human nature, though without sin, and entered the human experience fully and completely. In doing so, he has revealed the mystery of Gd in that he affirms that we are loved and of infinite value.  But, to meet him not on our own terms but on his is the foundation of the Christian way of life.  While those terms envision the high moral standards of loving our enemies, reconciliation, selfless love and to become peace makers, it also means that we are to recognize our own need for a radical change of heart.  God has made a proposition to humanity and if we accept it we will be called to put on Christ daily.  As we celebrate our Eucharist this Christmas we know his infinite mercy to our sin and we find in him all we hope for. 

The "why" of Jesus' birth is a universal and daily invitation to walk away from sin and to journey towards holiness.  He invites us away from prejudice, division, hatred and indifference to walk in the light of the Gospel towards wholeness and holiness.  So, it's time to "Come to Jesus" and his Church in all its challenge, beauty and richness. If it has been a long time, what are you still waiting for? If you haven't gone to confession for example, in a very long time, now is the time to begin again. God is waiting for you . . . 

Let's all Come to Jesus this year and receive the gift of himself in both Word and Sacrament and continue to come to him throughout the new year.  

Peace and Merry Christmas! 

O God, who have made this most sacred night
radiant with the splendor of the true light, 
grant, we pray, that we, who have known the mysteries 
of his light on earth, 
may also delight in his gladness in heaven. 
Who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
one God, for ever and ever. 

(Opening Prayer for Mass - Christmas Mass at Night)