Homily for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Before I begin my homily, I just want to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of you for your prayers and support over the last three months and change. As I spent the last few months away from the parish, I very much felt the love and the support from all of you. It is certainly good to be back. Texas was nice, but this is home! My hope is that me taking time for myself will, if anything, start a conversation in our parish about the importance of taking care of our own mental health and to realize that it is okay to not always be okay. And you know, that’s what this great celebration tonight is all about.
The story of Jesus’ birth, of God becoming man, is certainly a story of redemption and salvation. But more than that, it’s about God stepping into the brokenness of the world…it’s about God becoming vulnerable to step into the reality of the human condition so that He can bring us to peace and wholeness. As Catholic Christians, we know that, through the Incarnation, through God taking on human flesh and becoming one of us, He unites Himself wholly and entirely with the story of humanity. The Creator becomes a creature so that He can lead us to that place of communion with God the Father.
Over the last four weeks, as we have celebrated the season of Advent, that joyful expectation of the coming of the Messiah, we have been invited to welcome the presence of the Christ-child into our hearts, to prepare a space there to welcome the Savior of the world. The question we should be asking ourselves tonight is: have we done all that we can to prepare our hearts for Christ to make his dwelling within us in a fresh and new way? That’s the purpose of Advent…it prepares us for Christmas.
In the Gospel tonight, we hear a portion of that story from 2000 years ago, the story of the first Christmas. Joseph and Mary have returned to the area of Judea for the Roman Census. As they arrive in Bethlehem, Mary is literally about to give birth to Jesus. Joseph is frantically looking for a place where Jesus can be born. He knocks on the door of the innkeeper only to be told that there is no room for them there.
Today, a similar scene is playing out. This time it’s not Joseph who is knocking on the door of an inn looking for a place that can accommodate the Holy Family. Instead, it’s Jesus knocking on the door of our hearts. He’s asking us tonight, “Do you have any room available for me?” Have we prepared our hearts enough for Christ to come into them anew?
There is something really beautiful about the Christmas story…the fact that God the Father so desires to be in relationship with us – with you and me – that he sends Jesus into the world…the manger is no longer empty. Jesus comes to redeem us and make it possible for us to return to Him. But the Father doesn’t send Jesus in a way that made sense to a lot of people in the ancient world. He doesn’t come as a ruler of many nations or a mighty and powerful king – as everyone expected him to. Instead, he comes as a baby. The most vulnerable of all humans.
God humbles himself and takes on our human flesh, to enter into our human reality, to struggle against temptation, to show us the way that we’re supposed to live our lives. But he doesn’t just humble himself by becoming human, he takes it to a whole new level. He humbles himself even to the point of being born in a food trough for farm animals. And you know what’s remarkable about Christ’s birth? It’s not an event that simply happened one morning 2000 years ago. It happens again and again every single day. It happens when we come to Mass to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. It happens throughout our day, when in small ways God reminds us of his presence in our lives. And it happens when in the junk and mess of our lives, someone comes to us and reminds us that God is with us.
Wherever you might find yourself this Christmas, Jesus is coming to you. He’s looking to come into the manger of your hearts in a renewed way. You don’t have to be perfect to say yes to him. You don’t have to have your life together in order to turn to him. In fact, it’s those of us who don’t have our lives together that Jesus wants to be closest to.
Maybe you’re missing loved ones this Christmas and you’re all alone. He’s knocking on the door of your heart.
Maybe you’ve just received a pretty challenging health diagnosis. He’s knocking on the door of your heart.
Maybe you are spending your nights and days in the hospital with a sick child, parent, or friend. He’s knocking on the door of your heart.
Maybe you have just been laid off from work and wondering where the next paycheck is going to come from. He’s knocking on the door of your heart.
Maybe you’re struggling with crippling anxiety or some other mental health challenge. He’s knocking on the door of your heart.
Or maybe everything is going really great in your life and things are looking up for you. It doesn’t matter because he’s also knocking on the door of your heart.
This night, the Lord is coming to each of us, knocking on the doors of our hearts and asking us if we have any room available for Him. Do we have that manger within us where we can lay the Christ-child today? Hopefully, we won’t respond to him like that innkeeper and say, “I’m sorry. I have no room for you.” Hopefully, each of us can respond to the Lord with joy and gratitude, saying: “Yes, Lord. Please, come in!”