Sunday, December 24, 2023

Why are you here? (Christmas homily)

 For almost everyone, 

this time of year is a jolt of emotional caffeine.

Not only do many of us eagerly anticipate this season of cheer, 

we make sure we gulp down every drop of it, 

punctuating every “Ho” and ringing those Jingle Bells like a maniac.

Why do sensible people crawl around on their roofs, first in November, 

and then again in January, to put up and take down lights?

Why do you and I load up our charge cards and our grocery carts? 

There’s a reason ads for gyms and diets show up in January!

People will say, oh the advertisers make us do it! They force us!

Gimme a break! Let’s be honest: We love it!

My question is, why?

Not everyone’s answer will be the same.

For some, it is a way to combat 

the gloom of darkening skies and poignant memories.

Others might simply ask, does having fun really need a reason?

So let me tighten the focus of my question.

Why should all this merriment include our presence here, tonight?

Why are you and I here?

Now, some might not want to admit out loud, that the truth is, 

“mom” – or grandad or spouse – “made me come.”

Or, “it’s just what we do.” Or, “it’s for the kids.”

But if you think about it, there’s still an unanswered “Why?”

Why is it “for the kids”? Why should anyone be here?

See what a mean priest I am,

Making you do a little work before the celebration.

In case it’s not obvious, or in case no one ever explained this:

The Christian Faith is founded on assertions of fact.

Not stories. Not theories. Not dogmas.

The bedrock underneath everything is summed up 

in three words in the Creed we profess every Sunday; 

and tonight/tomorrow, we kneel for these three words: 

“And became man.” 

God out there – somewhere! – came here, 

became human flesh in the womb of Mary, 

without the help of St. Joseph.

God became what we call a “fact.”

A material, physical, fact.

Either that happened, or it did not. 

Either Jesus is God, “true light from true light,” 

or he is just a tragic figure from long ago.

There is no half-way position here.

I understand why people might say, “I don’t believe it.”

Obviously, I don’t agree, but let’s recognize that

it takes a fair amount of courage to commit yourself, 

to take a definite stance that, there is no God, there is no savior, 

other than what we human beings might be able to do for ourselves.

But since I already started making you uncomfortable, 

I will go a little further. 

While it is certainly polite not to blurt out, 

Over Christmas dinner, “I don’t believe in God!”

It doesn’t make sense to waffle on the question. 

It makes no sense to say, “I’ll wait and find out!”

Would you take a job, or buy a house, that way?

“I’ll wait and find out!”

Why would anyone wait until That Day, 

to think about, and prepare for, That Day?

After all, why would God go to all this trouble – 

Being born, one of us, living among us, going to the Cross, 

dying a horrible death, rising from the dead, and along the way, 

instituting the Church, the sacraments, and above all, 

the Holy Mass to “do in remembrance of me” –

If everything would wash out just fine, in the end?

God came here and became a fact for a reason.

And if there is a God, and he acts in time,

then you are here – on earth, and in this church – 

also for a reason.

Either God came to give bad news… 

In which case, “Boo-to-the-factor-of-Infinity-hoo!” 

(this is a really SAD day!)

Or he came to give Good News:

In which case, don’t you want to know what that is?

He actually gave us both bad and Good News:

Jesus came to tell us, to enter Eternity, you and I need to change;

and he came to offer us the grace to do that.

Don’t you want to ask for his help?

Here, you thought you were just coming to make grandma happy.

Little did you realize, God would meet you here tonight!

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