Thursday, December 25, 2014

Homily for Christmas 2014 - Jesus in the Box

Note: for all of the Christmas Masses this year, we used the Gospel from the Mass during the Day:  The beginning of the Gospel of John.

Is this Joy for everyone?  Remember your Christmas story – when the angels appeared to the shepherd in the field – what did they say?  “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for”…. For who?  For all the people who are Jewish?  For all the people who go to church every week and follow all the rules?  For all the people who are one specific religion?  Or maybe it’s like Santa Claus, and the Joy is only for all the ‘good’ boys and girls?  Nope… the angels simply said… I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people.  Yeah – ALL the people. 

That means if you’re not Catholic, Even if you’re not Christian!!! This good news is meant for you!  That means if you only make it to church once or twice a year, this good news is meant for you too!

What is the good news?  Well – that’s why I wanted to use THIS Gospel reading from John, because it explains the very core of our beliefs… this is the very ESSENCE of the good news.  If you and I fully understand this reading, then we can claim for ourselves that Joy the angels proclaimed.  So let’s walk thru this reading a bit –

In the beginning was the Word and the word was with God and the Word was God.
Shoot – I could talk all day just about what that one line means.  First, hopefully you caught-on that the ‘Word’ is Jesus – he is the Divine Logos: the active word; the reason; the command of God sent into the world.  So it says ‘He was in the beginning’ – which means he was not created AFTER God.  It says in the beginning he was WITH God – which means he was also not created BEFORE God.  Right there, we learn that Jesus is ‘co-eternal’ with God the Father…they bost existing ‘in the beginning’.  And then it says the Word WAS God.  In this one sentence, John teaches us that Jesus is Godthe God – the alpha and omega – and in no way inferior to God the Father.  Right there – we see clearly two of the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  He’ll get to the Holy Spirit later.  At the same time, this also tells us that there is only one God – and we might not catch that, if it weren’t for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who added the smallest little word into this reading and changed the whole meaning… they think it says ‘and the word was with God and the Word was A god’… see what a difference one little letter can make?  That would imply there are many gods and Jesus is just one of them.  But - Because the ‘a’ is not there, it’s clear to us that there is only ONE God.   See how deep this theology is?  And that’s just the first sentence!  We’ll move on…

Through him all things were made and without him nothing was made that has been made.
Because Jesus is the active Word of God, it is through Him that the world was created!  We often think of Jesus as the Redeemer… but He is also the Creator!  In fact, He is the source of Life itself….read on:

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Jesus is the source of life –both in this world and the source of eternal life. 
Are you seeing how deeply important this reading is?!  I’m not gonna go line by line – just because it would take too long.  But one more line…. Skip down to:

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
There it is…the goal of our lives…. Because Jesus came, we have been invited to become children of God.  Specifically – it says we have the ‘right’ or the ‘power’ to become children of God.  That means there’s something else has to happen…it’s not a done deal.  It IS a free gift – open to everyone – but you have to personally open that gift.  Have you opened that gift yet?

Let’s say you gave your best friend a sweater for Christmas.  You do it right – you even shear a sheep yourself – make the wool into yarn – then knit the sweater by hand.  It was perfect color and style for your friend.  You wrapped it and put a pretty bow on it and took it over to his house on Christmas Eve.  Your friend says – That’s a beautiful present – I love that bow – I hate to mess it up.  I’ll stick this present under the tree to open later…and you go upstairs to play x-box.
A year later, on Christmas eve, you go over to your friend’s house again – and – you think- that present there looks familiar to me… your friend explains – that’s the present you gave me last year!  The wrapping was so pretty, he couldn’t bring himself to unwrap it – so he put it in the attic with the Christmas tree and he just takes it out each year to look at it.  Isn’t it beautiful?

Silly isn’t it?  Who would receive a gift and never open it?  A sweater left in the box is wasted.  We would never do anything that silly would we?

One of our missionaries to Haiti had gone down numerous times to install a water filtration system at the school in town.  This was the first CLEAN water EVER to be available in the town.  This was a huge deal, because people are dying every day from water-borne illnesses.  He setup the program so that each student could take home two gallons of clean water with them each day for their family to use.  It was a brilliant plan and was bound to save many, many lives.

However, on a subsequent visit, he went to visit a lady on the outskirts of town.  Her youngest child was very sick and needed medication, so He was checking to see how he could help.  Turns out, the child had dysentery…  which comes from drinking bad water.  He was in disbelief!  How can this be?  There’s perfectly clean water available just down the road, and your child has the right to bring home two galloons every day….why did your daughter drink bad water?

She explained that the other children often forgot to take their jugs with them to school – or – stopped to play soccer on the way home and ended up spilling it.  After a while, they just quit even trying to get the clean water. 
His jaw dropped…. this life-saving gift which had been given to the village for EVERYONE…  it was their RIGHT!  They were now entitled to clean water.  But each person has to do something to claim this right before it becomes their own PERSONALLY. 

Just like a sweater left in the gift wrap – we could freeze to death because we never bothered to open the present and make the sweater our own. 

See where I’m going with this?  Here’s what it’s all about:  this good news of great joy really IS meant for EVERYONE.  No exceptions!  Jesus is God’s present to all of us.  BUT…if we don’t let Jesus out of this box… if we don’t let Jesus change us every day… then it is the same as never opening the present.  If all we do is look at the pretty Bible once in a while, we’ve left our true source of joy under the tree.  We’ve left Jesus – in the box.

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