Homily for Christmas Eve
Welcome! We are glad you chose St. Joseph Parish to celebrate the joy of Christmas this year. It’s wonderful to see so many familiar faces, and to welcome so many new friends!
Our readings today are very joy-filled. They remind us of the lengths that God is willing to go to share his love with us. No matter where we are or where we have been in life, God longs to share his love with us. All he asks is that we turn to him, accept his love, and grow in relationship with him.
TURN BACK TO GOD
Our First Reading from the prophet Isaiah (IS 9:1-6) describes such an experience. The Israelites, God’s chosen people, had turned their backs on God. Separated from God’s love, they lived in darkness and gloom. But when they reconciled and turned back to God, they experienced a new dawn; they encountered the “great light” of God’s grace shining on them.
Their lives didn’t automatically become perfect — they still had challenges and difficulties in their lives. But, living in God’s light, their burdens were lessened, they had hope for the future, and they experienced “abundant joy and great rejoicing.”
Christmas is a time to experience abundant joy and great rejoicing. It’s also a good time to examine our relationship with God.
One of the traditions of Christmas is to exchange presents with friends and family. It’s a good tradition. It reminds us that Jesus Christ is God’s great gift to us and it creates an easy way for us to show our love and appreciation for others.
When we happen to receive a gift that we really wanted, we experience an intense feeling of happiness, and when we happen to give something that someone else really wanted, we experience an even more intense feeling of happiness. Those feelings are good, but we know that those feelings are passing. If you need proof, you should be a fly on the wall at the Donnelly home Christmas Day.
My wife and I will celebrate Christmas this year with our two daughters and their husbands, along with our three granddaughters – Claire, Lillian and Violet. The youngest two are 11 month-old identical twins. I expect them to be overwhelmed with the mountain of presents Santa will deliver. And, after unwrapping their “special” and “must-have” presents picked out by Santa’s enthusiastic helpers, I fully expect the twins will be just as excited to eat the wrapping paper and play with the boxes the presents came in as they will be plaything with their new toys.
The twins won’t understand this, but hopefully you and I do: The human heart cannot be satisfied by any mere thing, by any mere present, no matter how valuable or desired it may be. As human beings the core of our lives is not material, but spiritual.
God longs to share the gift of his Son with us this Christmas. And he hopes we will not treat this sacred gift like a new toy (we play with it a couple of weeks, we get bored with it, then we start looking around for something else that matches our material desires or needs).
God is looking for something better for his Son — and something better for us as well. He wants us to grow in relationship with his Son, as we would with any other friend.
Friends are “living gifts” — always new, always there to share our experiences and inviting us to share theirs. A friend is another spiritual being who can know and love us — and be known and loved by us.
Faithful friends meet us where we are and accompany us through the ups and downs of life. That’s the kind of friend Jesus will be for us if we keep turning to him and remain in his love. That’s what community can do as we gather in worship (like we do this glorious evening) and as serve in ministry together throughout the year.
GROWING IN RELATIONSHIP
Where are you in your relationship with God? I think Christmas is a good time to ask ourselves:
- How is my relationship with Christ? Is he an “old toy” that I’ve cast aside, or is he a “living gift” in my life?
- How is my prayer life? Do I take time regularly to turn to God and engage in open, honest dialogue with my loving friend?
If you are lacking in either of these areas (as I often am), I invite you be like the Israelites: Turn back to God, accept his love, and grow in relationship with him.
The source of Christmas is peace and joy. The gift of Christmas is the “good news of great joy” — the promised Savior born to us this day! And so we proclaim: Glory to God in the highest and peace to those “on whom his favor rests.”
Have a Merry Christmas, and a joy-filled, Christ-centered New Year!