The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) At the Vigil Mass | December 25, 2016
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
PROTIP: You can take a look at the readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.
I must admit, this time of year always indulges my nostalgia.
I think back to Christmases as a child and all of these heart-warming memories come flooding back.
Sitting in the cafeteria sorting hundreds of pounds of Hershey chocolate to distribute to all of the students for the holiday.
Gathering in the gym that the Vietnamese community had already decorated, listening to my mother sing “Mary did you know” for Christmas Eve mass.
Snuggling on the couch as a family, after a wonderful seafood feast, to listen to the Nativity Story and Twas the Night before Christmas.
And of course, waking up Christmas morning to a stocking at the edge of my bed bursting with surprises before dashing down the stairs to the living room that had been magically transformed into a child’s paradise with presents, tinsel and candy canes galore.
Everything seemed much simpler then. Life was safe and comfortable. And yes, it was easy to believe in a God who chose to dwell among us. Because I encountered that God all around me, in parents who made each Christmas magical, in a pastor who radiated joy, in family friends who caroled outside our home each Christmas eve.
But somewhere along the way, life got a tad more complicated and chaotic.
My Christmas travels now take me locations that don’t seem a bit nostalgic.
Courtrooms and Hospice centers
Funeral services and psych wards.
Addiction treatment facilities and exam rooms.
And alongside Christmas card writing and holiday shopping, I find myself counseling students through a crisis, posting bail, and translating for families in a waiting room.
Where is that Silent Night of my childhood? What happened to Christmas?
But then I re-read the Gospel for this weekend. And I realized something that I had missed in all of my reminiscing
There was nothing nostalgic about that first Christmas.
I know we have this idyllic view of the manger scene, with Mary serenely sitting, Baby Jesus smiling in the crib, and Joseph gently watching over his little, happy crew.
But that is not reality.
On the contrary, Mary just gave birth. She would have been exhausted, after having spent the last few hours in labor. Joseph would have been frantically trying to help his wife through the birth of her first child, grappling with fear and anxiety. And Jesus was probably screaming, like any newborn.
And then the first people to witness this chaotic scene were a bunch of shepherds. Not exactly the crème de la crème of Jewish society. In fact, shepherds were pretty much at the bottom of the social heap. They were outcasts. Scorned by their neighbors. Banished to the hills where they were viewed with judgment and derision.
And suddenly they show up, in the middle of the night, dirty and smelly from a night at work, to surprise the Holy Family with a visit.
It was into this chaos that Christ was born.
And Christ found the Father’s love reflected in the faces of those who surrounded the manger.
A teenage mother.
A step-father far from home.
An assortment of working poor.
And in reflecting on that 1st Christmas, I gain perspective on my own.
For I realize that God is still just as present in my Christmas today as of my Christmas past.
But today his love is reflected in so many more faces than I experienced in my childhood.
I see his love in the face of the kid awaiting his court date and in his family waiting outside the courtroom
I see his love in the face of seniors in high school holding hands around the altar on their retreat.
I see his love in a Hispanic family gathered around the table, speaking English and Spanish as we dined on tamales, rice and beans.
I see his love in my co-workers as we debate the merits of the newest Star Wars movie.
I see his love in the Oblates as we walk to dinner after a night of hearing confessions.
I see his love in each of you as we gather this night to share faith, food and fellowship.
My friends, we come here tonight on all different points of our journey.
And I can guarantee that most of us are grappling with some level of chaos.
It may be the chaos of getting kids to bed, dinner prepped, and gifts wrapped in a two hour time span.
Or the chaos of trying to figure out how to balance all of the different family expectations that come with being newlyweds.
The chaos of depression or addiction or a mental illness that makes each day a struggle
Or the chaos of rearranging our lives after a major change, whether it be a divorce or an adoption, the death of a loved one or moving out of the house.
But this feast is the reminder that our God is born among us. In the midst of our chaos. And in so doing, he allows us to see God’s love in each of his brothers and sisters that surround us.
We just need to open our eyes, look around, and see him. In our spouse and kids, our parents and in-laws, our co-workers and friends, the stranger and the immigrant, the poor and the Muslim, the child and the convict. For today is our reminder that he is ALWAYS there.
So let us rejoice, my friends. Our God is here.
May God be Praised.