I bet if I asked the question, “so what do you want for Christmas”, that almost all of us would be thinking the same thing. Life to return to normal, right? I want this community to be back to normal where we can sit next to each other, see our smiles, hear our voices singing. Families want to see each other again just like in normal times and have the celebrations and the dinners and all the moments that mark the passing of the year. My friends have said they want their jobs to go back to normal, to be able to meet with clients and get their work done without all the extra complications. And if you can believe it back at the end of the summer I even heard school kids tell me they wanted to be back in school, they wanted to see their friends again, like normal.
In this gospel the shepherds “went in haste” to find this infant lying in a manager that an angel had told them about. They went in haste because they really wanted to see this child who was called a savior, and a savior means the hope of things changing back to what they should be. The shepherds wanted things to go back to normal, because the truth of the human heart is that everyone who has ever lived wants things to go back to normal. And I don’t mean the normal of our regular lives that this year has disrupted, I mean the normal of what God created us for.
In the beginning, God created us without any intention of us experiencing suffering… or labor… or disease… or death. Those things were not part of His plan, and this whole year of worrying about a pandemic was definitely not part of His plan at all. In His plan, “normal” was a paradise, a garden where we spoke freely to God and lived in His presence. It was original sin that took normal away from us, when we decided to make the world a little less of what God planned and a little more of what we wanted to plan. And ever since then the world has been broken and the human heart has wanted to go back to normal. When the shepherds heard from an angel that a savior had been born, they went with haste because for the first time in their lives they had hope.
The most beautiful, most wonderful, most awe inspiring gift we could ever receive is what we celebrate here today. Since the day of our baptism – which for most of us has been more or less our entire lives – we have always had hope. We have always known that a savior was born, and that his death and resurrection marked the end of the power of sin and death over us. In that longing for things to return to the normal, to the paradise of joy that we were created for at the beginning of all times… because of Christmas we know without question that the kingdom of God is being restored and is where we will rest at the end of all things. The child and savior that was born is called Emmanuel, God-with-us, and that is what it was always supposed to be, God-with-us.
On this Christmas (night/day), I pray that your hearts can rest and have peace in what God has done with the birth of His Son. This year has had too much stress and anxiety. It’s been hard. But setting aside whatever is still to come as we try to get past this pandemic, the peace of our hearts cannot be troubled as we remember that God is with us. God came in human flesh to make sure that we belong to Him. Could hear him and see him and know his love. That’s quite a gift, to know that God wants paradise to be normal again too.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.