In the beginning was the Word, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. A very merry Christmas to all of you. What a day of joy and celebration. The Word became flesh. Jesus Christ is born. God has sent his son to be with us. No longer is God far, distant, or remote. He’s right here. He’s with us. Emmanuel.
Deep in the heart of every human being there is a great longing for God. Why? Because God made us. And, he made us to be in union with him forever. So, whether we are passionate followers of Jesus, or complete unbelievers, there is still a longing for God in every human heart. Personally, I think this is why just about everyone loves Christmas. Ok sure, there are a few Grinch-like outliers who don’t like Christmas, but most of us like it. If I asked you to list the reasons why you like it, we might get different answers. Maybe: cake, cookies, candy, presents, cookies, family, cookies, etc. And all these things are wonderful and great. But, I think part of the reason that we all love Christmas so much is that deep down we all realize the truth: we love Christmas because it means that God is with us. We were made by God and for God, and Christmas means that now we are with God. This little baby in the manger changes everything.
This little baby in the manger is God, he is the Word, he is the beloved Son. God is with us. But, one thing I find fascinating is the fact that Jesus became human, but he did so as a little baby. He is like us in all things but sin. Even in his birth. So, here he is, the divine son of God, as a helpless, tiny infant, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. How unbelievable! The divine Son of God, a helpless infant. Think about it, here is the Word of God, but he cannot even speak. We all know that babies can sure make a lot of noise, but they cannot speak. But, even though this baby cannot use words, he still speaks to us.
This baby says a lot just by being there. This baby says: God loves us. God has never forgotten us. Even in our most difficult days, God is near to us. Emmanuel, God is with his people. Just lying there in the manger, this baby speaks volumes about the tremendous love and mercy of God.
And, I don’t think it is an accident that he is lying in a manger. What is a manger? It’s basically the feeding trough for animals. It would contain grains or hay, or whatever else animals eat. And Jesus, the Word of God is laying in a manger, a place for eating.
When I look at the manger, with Jesus in it, I cannot help but think about this holy altar. Not a feeding trough, but a table. And what’s on it? Not the baby Jesus per se, but the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is Christ. Just as the baby Jesus couldn’t speak with words, but tells us an awful lot about God’s love. The same with the Eucharist. The Eucharist doesn’t speak with words, but it tells the exact same story that the baby Jesus tells. God loves us. God is with us. He is not far, he is not distant. He is right here. Jesus is God with us. The Eucharist is God with us.
In the heart of every human being there is a longing for God. When we see this manger we are filled with joy because we know that God is close to us. But, really, every time we walk into this church and see the altar, we should get that same sense of Joy. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. But, he has never departed. That Word continues to dwell with us here, in this and every holy Mass.
As we celebrate this Mass, with great Joy. We remember Christ, born to be our savior. He came to give his life for us, and he continues to give himself to us in the Holy Eucharist.