Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons
The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) | December 24/25, 2014
PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
I would like to begin this evening by recounting one of my favorite memories of Christmas.
It was December 24 and my family was making our usual preparations.
See Christmas always followed a very predictable pattern in the Zumbrum household.
First, we would go to Christmas Eve mass. Then we would all stand in front of the tree for our yearly photo shoot. After the photo was taken, we would share in our traditional seafood dinner, despite the fact that we are not Italian.
Then, the three boys would sit on the couch as mom and dad read the Nativity story from the Bible and Twas the Night Before Christmas. We would place Jesus in the manger. And then, we would finally head up to our rooms.
After that, my parents would work with Santa to transform our living room. There would be tinsel on the tree, each strand carefully placed.
Each gift would be lovingly wrapped. Each stocking carefully stuffed.
So that when my brothers and I awoke, everything would have this aura of perfection.
But this particular Christmas, everything went wrong.
The afternoon of Christmas Eve, my mom developed a migraine. For the first time ever, my brothers and I went to Christmas Eve mass without mom.
Her condition did not improve with our arrival home, so the photo shoot was postponed. Dad made dinner, read the stories and then ushered us up to bed.
But now the true crisis began. My father was now tasked with helping Santa all by himself.
When we awoke the next morning, we knew something was off. All of the lights in the hallway were still off. No coffee was brewing in the pot. Curious we walked downstairs to find both of our parents sprawled on the couches. Mom with her migraine. Dad from exhaustion.
That did not stop us from heading down to the tree, when the fruits of dad’s labor were in full view.
The tinsel had been thrown on the tree in one giant clump.
Candy canes were still in their boxes underneath the tree.
Gifts were shoved haphazardly into bags. I would unwrap a video game only to hear my mother groan . . . That’s Stephen’s. Kevin would pass me a pack of note cards and go, I hope these are yours because I sure don’t know what to do with them.
Truly, it was utter chaos. We were all laughing so hard by the end of the morning that it was hard to breathe. That was when my little brother looked at my parents and said . . . This was the best Christmas ever.
I thought a lot about that Christmas as I read the Gospel for tonight. For I can guarantee you that nothing went perfectly on that very 1st Christmas. From the moment they arrived, Joseph and Mary’s plans were dashed with the revelation that there was no room in the Inn.
But what if the ones whose plans were really ruined were not Mary and Joseph, but the Innkeeper and his or her family? See, we have this image of the innkeeper as someone who callously sent Mary and Joseph away. But what if the Innkeeper didn’t turn them away? What if he or she welcomed Mary and Joseph into their very home, a home that would have also included their animals?
No, this was not a perfect arrangement, but it was the best they could do. And from their meager offering, Christ would transform this humble stable into the birthplace of the Son of God.
My friends, we arrive here tonight with our lives as they are, not as we want them to be.
And yes, our lives can be quite messy. We have our family quarrels, our estranged family members, our broken relationships. We have our stress and our failures and our fears. We have our overbooked schedules, our scandals and our secrets. We have our grief and our loss and our quirks. And yes, we have our headaches.
We can look around this Church and ask an entirely justified question . . . You want to be born among us?
But we don’t make the time.
We have too many doubts. Too many excuses.
We can be so judgmental, hypocritical, self-righteous.
We’re too young. We’re too old.
We’re not smart enough. Good enough. Holy enough.
It is into our cacophony of noise that Christ speaks a single word. Yes.
Yes, I choose you, my sisters and brothers. I choose you, Church.
I choose to make my home among you. To dispel your darkness. To calm your troubled spirits and heal your broken hearts. To mend your burned bridges and forgive your transgressions. To show you the way. To point out your blind spots. To lead you to faith. To love you with all my heart.
If you let me in.
Tonight my friends, we celebrate the great feast of Christmas. But the invitation is the same one extended every moment of every day. The invitation to allow Christ to enter our lives and to transform them.
We can wait for the perfect room in the Inn to open up or we can usher Christ into our stables. We can hold back until our lives are perfect or we can offer up our lives in this Eucharistic feast and let them be transformed.
Let us follow the example of the Innkeeper and prepare our mangers for the best Christmas ever. May God be Praised.