Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Invitation of Christmas

Isn’t it remarkable the power of Christmas to bring people together?

For weeks now, people have had more and more in common as they went about the business of preparing, sharing a knowing look (sometimes of joy, sometimes of frustration) with folks in line with them at the cash register, laughing with the guys at the tree lot, and all trying desperately, simultaneously, to find a parking place. Christmas is something we have in common, despite our differences and diversity.

Now that the moment is upon us, look around you in our church and see, not only the number of people here, but see how they are with one another: fathers with daughters, mothers with sons, and even in-laws sidled up close, and beaming.

In fact, one of the things that I have noticed lately is how disappointed I become when I learn that someone from our parish is going to be away for Christmas. I know, I know, it is all in the name of bringing those families together – and heaven knows plenty of us are from someplace else. But I truly miss those folks who are part of our family of faith here in Four Corners, and feel their absence on the Holy Day.

The consolation prize is all the family members who come here, some of whom I only get to see at Christmas or First Holy Communion, and those folks I get to meet for the first time, who are uniting with us in celebration because of their travels.

This is the power of Christmas to bring people together, because it is the power of God, who would be together with us. By His power, He comes among us; and by his helplessness, He draws us to Himself.

That tiny child is not only no threat, but the most marvelous invitation. That God would so humble Himself in order to share our company, by also sharing our lot, our fate, is the most marvelous invitation ever issued, the invitation received and responded to again and again in the eyes and lives of tiny children and wizened faces who recognize this great gift and mystery.

One of my favorite lines from the liturgy of Christmastime is the antiphon of Vespers in the Divine Office. It begins: O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum, ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, jacentem in praesepio, which I translate, O great mystery, and wondrous sacrament, that animals should see the new born Lord, lying in their feed trough. So descriptive of the most unlikely and most wonderful scene, it has often been set to glorious music. Though the animals could see the Lord in their midst, and could even sense their Creator’s presence, they could not be united with Him in the way that we are, whose human nature He embraced. Though it was in their feed trough that He lay, He would become food for us.

That scene, and that infant, draw us together in this holy place so that we, in similar awe and wonder, might find Him set before us not only to behold, but also as food. Partaking in His holy Body and Blood, we become able to be united not only with one another, but also with Him in His radiant holiness, perfection, and divinity. This is true unity, true Communion, indeed.

Every laugh, every wave; every greeting (yes, even “Happy Holidays,” although Merry Christmas says it better) and every kindness or courtesy extended in the crowded marketplace, not only draw us closer to one another in our humanity, but echo the invitation and possibility of being united with one another and with our saving God, in His divinity and eternal splendor. Peace on earth, indeed.

So take some time this day to marvel with me at how Christmas brings people together, especially as we become one in this Holy Communion at the center of our life as the Church.

Even if you travel in these festive days, and especially if you are joining us for the occasion or even for the first time, join me in delight in being together in the presence of our new born Lord. Thanks be to God for bringing us together in this peace.

And so in unison with Father DeRosa, the rectory staff and pastoral team, and all of us privileged to serve you in this center of our blessed Communion, I am pleased to wish you and all whom you hold dear a grace-filled and merry Christmas.

Monsignor Smith