Monday, December 24, 2007

Are you ready to burst? (Christmas Vigil)

“For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her victory like a burning torch.”

The Prophet Isaiah has Good News!
He’s bursting with it!

I’m sure it’s happened to you.

“I tied my shoes all by myself!”
“I got an ‘A’ on the exam”…
“I got the job we’ve been praying for!”

Sometimes we have News inside us, ready to explode—
and we have to share it.

Love is that way, too;
It grows inside you, like the Sun, burning and intense—
It has to get out.

Isn’t that why some are here tonight, with your children?

That’s why I am a priest.
Another priest planted the idea in me;
And the more I reflected on our Lord,
and what he’d done in my life, the more it grew inside me:

Love: for the Lord—and love for his People.
Young men, it may happen to you, too;
and you will be like Isaiah, the Prophet,
or like Paul the Apostle in the second reading:

“For Zion’s sake”—you have to speak, you have to act.

Now, who is “Zion”? Zion is God’s People.

In that long Gospel you just heard,
we heard a list of just some of those people.

They are mostly unfamiliar to us,
but for the first folks who heard this Gospel,
they would have recognized those names.

They would have said—“those are our people!
Our relatives—that’s our family tree.”

Abraham—our father in faith:
He and his wife were old and had no children;
One day God called them to follow him.
God said: “I will give you a son.
I will make your descendants as numerous
as the stars in the sky!”

It was hard for Abraham to believe; but it happened.

In time, one of Abraham’s descendants became King:
King David. And God told David:
Your kingdom will last forever!
Also hard to believe—
especially when the kings who came after him failed.

Eventually, they went into captivity!
It would have been easy to forget the promise of God.

But God did not forget:
And so the story continued, generation after generation.

Now, there were certain names
in that list that deserve special notice.

Who here goes on the Internet?
Do you know what a hyperlink is?

Some of these names are like “hyperlinks”:
when you “click” on them,
more of the story comes up, and you think, “wow”!

So let’s “click” on some of the “hyperlinks”…

Way back, early in the story was Tamar.
Without details, there was a terrible act—a crime.
And yet, God worked through her and her children.

Another “hyperlink” is Rahab.
She was—parents, you’ll get my meaning here—
a “lady of the evening.”
But she it was who gave shelter to Joshua,
way back, early in the story!

(By the way—the name “Joshua” is Hebrew—
do you know what it is in Greek?
It is a very famous name,
the most famous Name: JESUS!)

Rahab’s past did not keep God
from making her a key player in his wonderful Plan.

Yet another “hyperlink” is Ruth.

Ruth was a foreigner—an “outsider,”
as were several others in this story.
She is included to show that God has no interest
in treating anyone as an “outsider.”

One more “hyperlink”: Uriah.
We heard that David married the wife of Uriah.
The rest of the story is that he had Uriah murdered—
so that he could have Uriah’s wife for himself!

Sometimes our family stories
have ugly parts we’re not proud of.
But God can heal them;
and if we allow him, he will transform our ugliness
into something beautiful and powerful.

We follow the story, step-by-step,
and it brings us to familiar names: Joseph, and Mary;
and at last to Jesus,
“who will save his People from their sins.”

Is this the end of the story?
No! It’s a climax—and a new beginning.

Jesus is the promise kept to Abraham;
Jesus is the promise kept to David;
Jesus is the Good News that Isaiah’s heart
was bursting to share;
Jesus is the Salvation
that St. Paul traveled far and wide to tell people about;
Jesus is the Light for us in dark places,
when all other lights go out.

Now, one more thing.

You did not come here merely to behold that Light.
Jesus did not come simply to be marveled at:
“What a cute baby; what a nice story!”

The God who carefully wove this story, link-by-link,
has just as carefully brought you here:
you are part of this story!
Jesus himself brought you here—
he is a Question: How will you respond?

Will you be a link in the Story?
Will you be, not a beholder, but a bearer of Christ?

Be careful!
It is dangerous; it takes courage to say “Yes”!

Isaiah and Paul, Joseph and Mary: it changed their lives.
To accept Christ, to be his Light-bearer,
changes everything. The King deserves no less!

That’s what makes it a good story!
His Light casts out all our darkness—nothing else can!
His Light can never go out—
nothing else has that power!
Nothing else will last!

That’s the News that bursts in Isaiah’s heart—
and, O, I pray it bursts in yours:
“For Zion’s sake I will not be silent,
for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet,
until her vindication shines forth like the dawn
and her victory like a burning torch.”

No comments: