Nativity of the Lord – Christmas Eve

Father Shawn Hughes

December 24th, 2015, 5 pm, 7:30 pm


Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.

God bless you.

There has been a Christmas song rattling around in my head for the past few weeks…it came out last year…by a group called the Pentatonix…

Mary, did you know…that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know…that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know…that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy will calm the storm with His hand?
Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?
Mary did you know…Mary did you know
The blind will see. The deaf will hear. The dead will live again. The lame will leap. The dumb will speak The praises of The Lamb.
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb? The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, I Am.

This song is asking the basic question that Pope Francis poses in the official prayer he wrote for the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. He says: “Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman: “If you knew the gift of God!” (John 4:10)

If we knew the gift of God.

Mary knew…that is why she is always depicted with such Joy, such wonder, such peace…as she gazes on the Christ child…

When the angel spoke to the shepherds, he told them: “I bring you, not merely tidings, but good tidings, good news; and not only of joy, but of great joy.” The atmosphere of Bethlehem is and should be the atmosphere of joy…just as the celebration of Christmas is and should be the atmosphere of joy.

Real joy is the possession of God, and not merely having God, but experiencing the fact that we have Him, because as we know, it is possible for us to have something and not realize what we have. And that is why it is so profoundly important to recall what Luke tells us about the shepherds in the gospel…the shepherds, “who having the great joy announced to them,” we are told, “They understood.”…they understood what had been told them. Joy is the realization, the understanding, of God’s blessings.

And every single one of us here this evening knows that gift on some level and we come here this evening to celebrate “the gift of God.”…that Mary knew and that is available to all of us.
To get warm you have draw close to the fire. So the shepherds ran to the stable…they drew close to God…to stay away would have been foolish…they knew to get warm they had to draw close to the fire…to have and to know Jesus they had to draw close to Him…just as we have to.

The song so poetically asks: Mary did you know…When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God?

This Baby that shepherds and wise men come to adore…this Jesus is the visible face of the invisible Father. The face of the God who manifests his power above all in forgiveness and mercy.

Mercy is when the Love of God encounters our misery.

What does this mean for us? I think each of us has experienced how easy it can be to become discouraged, disappointed, perhaps ashamed, when we see our own weakness. We can become mired in guilt, anger, and regret when we look at our own frailty and inadequacies. There is something greater than our sinfulness, our shortcomings and the strife they cause. We are miserable, but He is merciful, and His heart goes out to us. This is the very meaning of Mercy. This is the very meaning of Christmas…In his mercy, God’s heart goes out to us and he becomes one of us…

Jesus, is God’s compassionate love, regarding our world…and in his love humbling himself to become one of us…

You will recall that when Pope Francis was asked, in a famous interview two years ago, how he would describe himself, he responded, “I am a sinner.” Then he added, “I am a sinner who has been looked upon by the face of mercy.”

That is what we celebrate tonight:

We are all sinners…sinners who have been look upon by the face of mercy.

That Baby Boy,… our God,…has come to make us new.

He took on our human nature so that we might become partakers of His divine nature. The Fathers and Doctors of the Church speak of the Christmas mystery as « a wonderful exchange » between God and man: He takes what is ours so that He may give us what is His. In sending His Son, God has opened for us a share in His divine life.

That Baby Boy,…our God,…has come to make us new.