First of all, let me say on behalf of Fr. Bob and everyone at St. Jude: Merry Christmas to all of you. We celebrate this feast with great joy. Christ is born for us. God our Father sent his only begotten Son into the world to bring us healing and peace, forgiveness and reconciliation, he came as our Savior to bring us everlasting life. Today we celebrate his birth. In our beautiful manger scene behind me we see this little child, who is the hope of the whole human race. Without him, without this little baby, we are lost, doomed to death as punishment for our transgressions; but with Christ, with this baby, there is hope, salvation. No wonder we are filled with joy today.
There is a lot to love about Christmas. I love everything about Christmas: presents, parties, food, family, fun, cookies, cakes, chocolates, pies, cookies... But at the heart of everything we do during this Christmas season is this little baby. Without Christ there would be no Christmas, without Christ we would not be here, without Christ there would be no Christianity, no Church, no Mass, no salvation, no parties, presents, or chocolate. Today as we celebrate Christmas, let’s think a little bit about this baby of Bethlehem.
This week as I was contemplating Christmas and pondering this little baby I thought about The Hobbit. Now, this might seem a bit strange. The Hobbit is a story about a strange man, Bilbo Baggins, and his adventure with a bunch of dwarves. It takes place in a land called Middle-Earth, and it is clearly a work of fantasy, a work of fiction. Now, perhaps the story has a higher motive, thinking about good winning over evil. But, at the end of the day, the Hobbit is not real. Bilbo doesn’t really exist.
Is this how we think about the birth of Jesus? Do we think of it as fiction? Just a morality tale? It is certainly true that it happened a long time ago, over 2000 years ago; and, it is certainly true that it was far, far away, in a little town called Bethlehem. There are certainly mythical elements involved: we hear about angels talking to people, about Jesus being a divine figure.
But, this story is no myth, this story is not fiction. This story is real, Jesus was really born, he really had a mother, he lived in a real time and place. In our day and age, God is relegated to the realm of ideas and principles. It is completely acceptable for someone to be spiritual, or to believe in God, just so long as we don’t allow God to affect our real life. God is allowed to act in the spiritual realm, but not in the material realm, that is the realm of science and physics. God is allowed to exist in the spiritual, ethereal plane, but not in the material, concrete world. But, if God cannot act in the material world, then he is not God, for to be God means to be the maker and sustainer of everything.
The birth of Christ shatters this modern conception of God. When we say that this little baby is the Son of God, who became man, we are saying something amazing. We are saying that God is not only above and beyond the material world, but that he entered the world he created. We are saying that God not only created the human race, but that he became human in order to share his divine life with us. When we say that this little baby is God we are saying that God is real, that he exists in the real world, that he is tangible and concrete. The birth of Christ is not some mere myth or morality story.
So, my friends, we celebrate this feast of Christmas with great joy. We celebrate the fact that Jesus is really God. That while this story is set a long time ago in a city far, far away, this really happened. Jesus is God, he was sent to be our savior. And just as Jesus came into the real, concrete world 2000 years ago, he continues to come into the reality of our lives. We live every day in the presence of God, he is not remote, he is not distant. He loves us, cares for us and is present in our lives. In a sense, every day could be filled with the joy of Christmas because every day can be a day where we experience God’s presence in our lives. He is not distant, but close.
We experience this same presence of Christ in a very powerful way right here as we celebrate this holy Mass. That little baby is truly God, and his is present in the Holy Eucharist. Right here at this mass Christ comes to us, not as a little baby, but as his body and blood. Today we celebrate his birth among us, and we welcome him into our lives as our savior and redeemer, but we do so by welcoming him into our lives in this Holy Eucharist. Jesus Christ is real, he is not a myth, not a morality fable, not a hobbit from the Shire. Jesus is a real person, who came to save us, who wants to be a part of our lives even today. Today we celebrate Christmas, a day to love Christ, to serve Christ, and to follow Christ.