Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Joy: Christmas Homily

(Listen to this homily here).

            Do you know what I learned on day one of seminary?  The bigger the crowd, the longer the homily.  Buckle up because it’s going to be a long one!
            Merry Christmas everyone.  I want to welcome all of our family, friends and visitors to Mass this evening.  I praise God you made it up here safely.
            I am overjoyed being with you this night—moments like this are why I am a priest.  We gather as a family, coming to Jesus in worship.  Whether you were here yesterday at daily Mass, or it has been many years, you are here and for that I am grateful!  We have babies, children, families, grandmas and grandpas.  What a great moment for our parish family.
What we are about today is joy.  Joy is the golden thread throughout the accounts of Jesus’ early life.  After Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit and proclaimed, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”  When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth (who was also pregnant) John the Baptist leapt for joy in her mother’s womb because he perceived the savior’s presence.  The angels heralded the presence of the newborn King by telling the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”
But joy isn’t reserved only for Christmas.  You know we have a new pope, right?  This Francis guy has been all over the news, and for good reason!  He has consistently promoted the need for joy in our Church and he has kicked butt.  Have you heard some of his challenges?  He told us we can’t be sourpusses!  (I don’t know the Italian word for this, but that’s the English translation!)  He said that we can’t live like we are always in Lent without Easter or look like we just got out of a funeral.  He even wrote a document called The Joy of the Gospel.  Pope Francis has made known that there is no room for crabby pants because we have nothing to be crabby about!  God became man—he became a baby to save us from our sins!
Have you ever stopped to think that God wants you to experience joy?  The Catholic Church wants you to be joyful!  I want you to be joyful!  We are called for more than what the world offers.  The world—secular society especially through the media—drives us to consumerism.  We see this most clearly this time of year.  We need more presents, more sales, more cars, more lights, more money, more, more, more!  Yet no matter what earthly goal we accomplish—getting a nice paycheck, a new car, a great party—we still yearn for something more.  We are made for more than what this world offers.
This is why we are giving each of you a gift—a stocking stuffer if you will.  It’s the book Made for More by Curtis Martin.  It’s a short read, and even includes pictures!  It’s one of the best books I’ve read as it succinctly explains why we can trust Jesus and why this matters for our life.  I mean, if we really believe Christmas is more than a cute story, if this Jesus guy is really God, this should make our lives very different!
I pray that Jesus fills you and your family’s hearts with joy this Christmas.  I pray that our parish will be saturated with joy, and that everyone who walks through our doors is welcomed with open arms.  I pray that the fact that God became one of us may open our hearts to worship Him as Lord of lords and King of kings.

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