Did you ever notice how crowded Church is at Christmas? It is amazing how quickly the pews fill up, and you can almost guess who is at Mass perhaps for the first time in a long while. They are the ones who don’t seem to know when to sit, stand, or kneel, and often they don’t know the verbal responses and prayers. So why are they at Mass? Because it is Christmas. And Christmas is different. And because Christmas touches our hearts in a very unique and different way.
Why is that? Christmas certainly doesn’t make much sense. A baby is born in a manger. This baby turns out to be God and has come to save people. This baby grows up in a backward town, gathers twelve social nobodies, makes outrageous promises like “you will live forever”, and has outrageous demands like “love one another”. Then He is crucified – but crucifixion doesn’t work – and He rose from the dead. No, Christmas doesn’t make sense – and the magic that started in Bethlehem has been going on ever since. Our hearts haven’t been the same. Because when God chose to become flesh in Jesus, when this great creator God entered fully into our humanity, into our history, and into our world – everything became different. We believe that God became flesh to share our human condition: the salt of our tears, the thrust of our dreams, and the intensity of our loves. We believe that God enlightens our darkness, satisfies our hungers, and forgives us our sins. Our hearts know this. Somehow our hearts know that when God is incarnated in Jesus, God is telling us that creation is good, that people are blessed, and that life has incredible meaning.
At Christmas we celebrate the “light shining in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it”. Even when the darkness of violence, poverty, loneliness, hatred, and injustice are so very evident, our hearts know that the light will not be overcome. God promised us and Jesus is the living sign of that promise … the light wins! The angels proclaimed, “Joy to the world and peace to people of good will”. Joy to the world, peace to the world, light to the world … and this is the Good News. And everyone can use a little Good News today. Indeed, this is great news!
When you go to Mass this Christmas, look around at all the people. Try to imagine their stories. Look for those who are uncomfortable. Look for those who aren’t exactly certain why they are in Church. And remember that their hearts have been touched in some way. And look, also, for those people who are just beaming with joy. Watch for the magic in the faces of the children. See their hearts ready to burst with hopeful expectation. See those hearts basking in the light. So this Christmas Season, let’s commit to being “light” for those around us. Let’s be more aware of those friends and family members who might be experiencing darkness in any way. Let’s bring some joy, peace, and Good News … let’s bring light into their darkness. Because that is what God did, that’s what Jesus does, and that’s what we are challenged to do as disciples of Jesus. Because it is Christmas, because everything is different, and because our hearts have been touched by Christ.