Hello, and a very merry Christmas to all of you. It is such a joy for me to be with you for this special celebration. Among the very cool things I get to do as a priest, celebrating Christmas here at St. Jude is one of the very best things. While we didn’t quite get a white Christmas this year, I’m hoping and praying that this feast of Christmas will be a day of great joy for each and every one of you, a moment of grace and peace for you and for all your families.
But, I have to be honest with you. This is a tough day to give a homily. This is my 6th Christmas as a priest and every year I find this really challenging. Not because Christmas isn’t awesome, it's the best. I just find it hard to come up with something new and interesting for the Christmas homily. So, I thought maybe I’d try to incorporate some movie idea. I know that about 300 million people saw Star Wars over the last week. So, I tried to come up with some witty idea about how the birth of Jesus is like the force awakening… But, I thought that was a terrible idea. I thought about talking about cookies somehow. It seems to me like cookies are the second most important thing about Christmas behind the birth of Jesus, but I couldn’t think of a good cookie homily. I thought about inviting the kids forward and talking about the story of Christmas, but then I remembered the time I tried that at St. Matt’s and a kid climbed under the altar and had to be rescued by his parents.
In other words, I was running out of ideas. But, then I read Pope Francis’ Twitter feed. He had a great thought there. He said, “God is in love with us. He became very small to help us love him.” Christmas is all about love.
God is in love with us. Do you know that? Does that simple phrase have an impact in your life? Every day we should wake up in the morning and let this simple truth be the start of our day: God loves me very much. I can only imagine how much our lives would change if this simple truth became the core of our existence. God loves me. God! The maker of the universe, the all-powerful ruler of everything, loves little ole’ me. Just think about how much more we would appreciate everything we face and experience in life if we held onto this simple truth at every moment. We would appreciate the good things even more. Wow, God loves me. We would have a better time dealing with trials. This sickness is really tough to deal with, but God loves me and that’s enough for me. I think we would be more loving people: I’m really mad at this guy who just cut me off in traffic, but God loves me and so I’m going to love him.
I don’t think this is pollyannish. I mean all the great saints in the history of our church did amazing things precisely because they knew that God loved them. Now, we might say: I know that God loves me, but how do I really know that God loves me. Look at this little baby. God so loved the world that he sent his only son so that all those who believe in him might have life. This little baby is an eternal proclamation of the love that God has for us. If he didn’t love us, he never would have sent his son. If Jesus didn’t love us, he never would have died on the cross for us. Truly, God is in love with us.
But, it might not always seem easy for us to love God in return. I mean how can we get our heads around this? God, the eternal, the creator, the ruler of heaven and earth, loves little, puny me. How can I return that love? I’m weak, I’m sinful, I’m insignificant in the divine perspective. As Pope Francis says, God became very small as a way to help us love him in return. Look at this little baby, love this little Baby. It might be hard to love the eternal triune God, but it's easy to love little babies.
Don’t we all love babies? They are cute and sweet and innocent. Ok, sometimes they cry and smell bad, but we love babies. I have a lot of experience with babies. I have 18 nieces and nephews. I’m the oldest of 11 kids. There is something just so amazing about little babies. So, don’t be afraid to love this little child. Jesus became small so that it is easier for us to love God.
I really find the littleness of this baby as such an important mystery. He was born as a little child. Think about that. Babies certainly are cute, but they are completely helpless, completely dependent on others. No babies can take care of themselves. All of us were babies once, and none of us would be here today if someone didn’t feed us, cloth us, take care of us. The same was true for Christ. He was completely dependent on his human family. The Son of God became small, weak, and helpless because we are small, weak, and helpless. Jesus Christ became human so that humans could have a relationship with Christ.
So, my homily for Christmas this year is quite simple, and I’m shamelessly stealing it from Pope Francis. God is in love with us. He became small to help us love him in return. So, don’t be afraid to love this baby. Don’t be afraid to love God. He loves us. Christmas is a chance for us to remember this great love. To look on this little child and see the Son of God, born to set us free, born to save us, born to help us love God better.
May this love, the love God has for us, and the love we have for God, live richly in your hearts and minds. I pray that this love lives in your lives, in your families, and in our world. May the love of God fill you with joy and hope. May it give you strength in time of difficulty, may it fill you with peace. May the Good News of the Birth of Jesus Christ grant you a wonderful, joyful, and very merry Christmas.