I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. How cool it was yesterday to see the snow coming down, it really looks and feels like Christmas. And, what a great feast this is: Jesus Christ is born. He is our Lord and Savior; his birth brings joy to the whole world.
In the gospel we just read, we hear the message of the angel: do not be afraid, I bring you news of great joy: a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. If you remember, a few hours ago we celebrated the 4th Sunday of Advent. The angel’s message to Mary was similar: do not be afraid, nothing is impossible for God. And now we proclaim the impossible has happened: Jesus is born who is Christ, Lord, and Savior. Do not be afraid.
This one sentence should live in our hearts constantly: do not be afraid. God is with us. Jesus is our savior. Do not be afraid.
But, I want to dwell on that word for a moment: savior. What does it mean to be a savior? What does it mean to say that Jesus is our Savior? You know this is something we say so often: Our Savior Jesus Christ the Lord. It sounds like just another name to add onto the name of Jesus. But, “Savior” is an amazing title. Savior is the one who saves, that makes sense. Saves from what? If you are drowning, a savior jumps in and brings you to safety. If you are in a car accident, a savior might pull you from the wreckage. If there’s a fire, a savior may risk himself/herself to go in and find you. A savior recognizes your plight, risks himself/herself, and overcomes danger to bring you to safety. But, if you don’t know you are in danger, you might not even be looking for a Savior?
So, are you looking for a savior? Have you every recognized that you are in danger? Have you ever felt the plight of being a human being? We are limited by our weaknesses, our imperfections. And worst of all, we are all mortal. These bodies will give up one day. Each and every one of us is in grave danger. But, are we even looking for a savior?
One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump. One year, for Christmas, Forrest stays with his old army lieutenant, Lieutenant Dan. After losing his legs, Lieutenant Dan had gone to some pretty low places in his life. In a moment of emotional turmoil, Lieutenant Dan says to Forrest, “Have you found Jesus Gump?” Forrest replies, “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him.” This is one of my favorite movie lines, maybe ever. I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him. Not only is it a great line, but I also think it is a problem that we all face at some point in our lives: I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him.
The angels tell us news of great joy: our savior is born for us. But, if we don’t realize we need a savior, we won’t find him. If we aren’t looking for him, we won’t find him. Jesus Christ is the son of God, but he comes to us as a small child, lying in his mother’s arms. Jesus is still our Lord and Savior, but he still comes in quiet moments. He comes as savior, to those who recognize that he is needed. He comes to those who are looking for him.
So, my friends, my encouragement for you this year is to take full stock of all the ways you need a savior. Do not be afraid. Where do you need to grow and change? I know I have my list of weaknesses, anxieties, stresses, and difficulties. I recognize that I need a savior. So, I’m turning to Christ: come Lord Jesus. Let’s keep our eyes open. Let’s keep looking for Jesus. Today we celebrate the day he was found in the manger. At this Mass, we celebrate the Holy Eucharist where he comes to us under the appearances of bread and wine. And as we go forth from this mass, we will keep looking for him. The more we look for Christ the more we will experience that great message: do not be afraid, I bring you news of Great Joy. Jesus Christ is born for us, he is our Lord and Savior. Merry Christmas.