Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted regularly 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.
The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas), Mass During the Night | December 25, 2017
So a few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land.
Now, as you can imagine, I had a mile long list of places and sites I wanted to see.
The Sea of Galilee
But on the top of the list was visiting Bethlehem and seeing the place where Christ was born.
See, since childhood, I had these pictures in my head.
A quiet barn, Mary and Joseph sitting serenely by a smiling Jesus in a manger.
Stars twinkling overhead as shepherds and wise men crowded around.
And now I was going to see it all firsthand.
As we approached the Church, I was getting more and more excited. Here it is, I thought.
I walked through the door and boom, I was greeted by a ridiculously long line, scaffolding and tarps blocking most of my view and a really, angry Orthodox priest yelling in different languages as he attempted to squeeze us tighter and tighter together.
Not exactly the image of Bethlehem I had expected.
As we inched along, our tour guide explained that the spot we were headed to was actually underneath the main altar.
And to access the spot, we would need to descend several steps to do so.
What he failed to mention is that about 100 people would suddenly funnel down into a narrow doorway about 4ft. tall and 2 ft. wide on steps that were worn smooth as glass with the millions of people who had walked before us.
As we began our descent, I was suddenly surrounded by members of our group all clutching to one another.
I’ve got you, don’t worry you will not fall.
Just inch your foot down, I’m holding on.
Fr. Brian, I swear if you fall, we are all going down.
Step by step, we moved forward. Our entire group united in the process, each trying to make sure that no one accidentally fell down several flights of stone steps.
We were so busy focusing on one another that suddenly you realized you were there. Standing in front of the spot on which the word became flesh.
I bent down, touched the stone, aware of the man next to me who was copiously weeping. And for a few moments, all was calm, all was bright.
And then a tour guide yelled to my right, keep moving. Can you not see the line?
And off I went back up the other side.
At the end of the day, my trip to Bethlehem was not at all what I expected.
But the more I reflect on it, the more I am convinced that God was reminding me of the two lessons that are so often lost in our celebration of Christmas.
Which is that Christ entered this world in chaos and in community.
I know the storybook image we have created over the years. But I have come to appreciate that the 1st Christmas was no silent night.
You had a young couple in an unknown home in an unfamiliar place.
There were exhausted from travel and suddenly giving birth without the comfort of friends or family.
You had the frightening reality of giving birth in the Ancient world. There would have been screams of labor, blood and the frantic cries of a newborn child.
But in their chaos, this couple was not alone. They were surrounded by a motley crew of shepherds and wise men and the innkeeper and his family.
Not exactly the people they may have chosen. But they were there.
And it was into all of this that the Word became flesh.
My friends, here we are, still gathering, 2000 years later to mark the birth of our Lord.
And the truth is, our lives are not all that different from the chaos of that 1st Nativity.
Each of us arrives in this place with our lives as they are. And let’s be real, we all have our share of chaos.
We have the chaos of trying to raise children and payoff student loans and navigating political discussions with our parents
We have the chaos of finalizing the divorce and cleaning out the house after mom passes away and handling our brother with Autism or our nephew struggling with an addiction.
There is yelling and laughter. Blood and tears. And yes, innumerably moments in which we are waiting in lines.
But like the First Family, we too are not alone.
Look around, here we are. The family that God has chosen to dwell among.
Not exactly the crew we may have chosen. But here we are.
For God has chosen us.
Young and old. Gay and straight. Rich and poor. Democrats and Republicans. Christians, Jews, and a few Agnostics and Atheists here keeping the peace.
And it is among US that Christ chooses to dwell. It is into OUR chaos that Christ chooses to enter.
And in the process, we are transformed. We are made holy. We touch the divine.
So my friends, Merry Christmas. May this season of celebration be one in which we encounter Christ anew, in the chaos and community in which we live and move and have our being.
May God be Praised.