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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Homily for the Day of the Nativity of Our Lord

It's pretty obvious looking around that we know how to celebrate Christmas. The streets, storefronts, and houses are all aglow in beautiful lights and decorations. The radio stations are all playing favorite Christmas carols and songs. Favorite Christmas-themed TV shows are broadcast daily, and new holiday shows are created and shown every year. Yes, we do know how to celebrate Christmas, but do we really stop and think about why we're celebrating? It is merely for an excuse to give gifts and get family and friends together for an elaborate meal, or is there something far deeper and more profound to our celebrations?

For several years, the Knights of Columbus have supported and spread an annual campaign: "Keep Christ in Christmas". The primary purpose of this campaign is to go against the secularization of this most holy of holy days, trying to prevent Christmas from becoming a generic winter holiday with warm fuzzy feelings and not much substance.

While that primary purpose is laudable, and should be highly encouraged, I think there's another way that we can "Keep Christ in Christmas". For most of us who are Christians, do we ever think about how profound the Christmas message really is? How many of us stop and look at a manger scene with amazement that the God who created us and loves us became man?

We may not consciously reflect on God becoming human, but that is precisely what the Gospel passage from St. John's Gospel is proclaiming this morning. In this opening passage to the Gospel we are told, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1) Later, we hear, "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

This Gospel passage is held to be the greatest proclamation of the divinity of Christ. Jesus was not only a human who had a large following and established a rule of life for us to follow, but was and is truly God incarnate, meaning that He is God become human. Our Lord was with the Father in the beginning, the creation of the universe, and St. John tells us that through Our Lord all of creation came into being. Yet, with all the power and glory due to Him by all creation, the second person of the Trinity deigned to become human, being born as a humble infant in humble surroundings to a simple and humble family.

The Letter to the Hebrews tells us God "has spoken to us through the Son, whom He made heir of all things and through whom He created the universe." (Hebrews 1:2) As the Son of God, Our Lord is "far superior to the angels". (Hebrews 1:4) He could have come to Earth in any form that He would have willed, but chose to become one of us as an innocent child.

This innocent child, born in a shelter for animals, is fully God and fully human. God became one of us to save us from our sins. He came to Earth to give His life in sacrifice so that we might have life eternal. When we look at Our Lord in the manger, we see the Cross overshadowing Him. This is why we celebrate this holy day. This is why it's so important to "Keep Christ in Christmas". Christmas would be pointless if we didn't recognize the one for whom we celebrate.

On this Christmas Eve, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and hope that this Christmas season is one of joy and peace for you and your families. During this season, I encourage you to take time with your families and friends to reflect on the most wonderful gift we've all received on Christmas: the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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