To all Christian people gathered, to the family of the Catholic Church from every walk of life, to visitors from near and far, to believers and to wanderers and to those who look to this place as their home church and community of faith, Christmas blessings and peace to us all.
Human labor may have built our church buildings, human hands may have fashioned its doors, human creativity may have painted icons and imagery, human resourcefulness may have harnessed fire and electricity, human laws may conduct our lives, but our God is the God of the great outdoors, the creator of the stars at night and the earth in all its beauty.
In all of creation, in the immensity of all the wonders of nature and the complexity of the universe, only one thing bears upon it the image and likeness of the eternal God - the human being, humanity. From the first instant of conception, invisible to the naked eye, a human being comes into existence made in the image and likeness of God.
After nine months of darkness, being formed, molded and shaped, within the mother’s womb, responding to the filtered sounds of the outside world the baby emerges and meets the world for the first time. But the child is vulnerable, in need of instant care, love and attention. It takes a family, friends and even trusted strangers to help in this sacred task of guiding someone after 9 months of being inside, in darkness, to the light of a new day to begin living outside the womb.
We have all been there. But even now, after the past 9 months we are getting ready to, in a manner of speaking, to be “born again”. We are past due and it will be a long labor, as we try to get up on our feet again and it will take family, friends and trusted strangers to help us, for we are still vulnerable and weak.
But what can inspire us, who can inspire us? The God of all creation, the God of the great outdoors, not only entered physically into our history 2000 years ago, but allowed himself in all humility to accept the confinement, the restrictions, dare I say the lockdown, to stay in place for 9 months in the darkness of the womb of the Virgin Mary.
And when born into this, his own world was born weak and vulnerable, exposed to the elements, susceptible to the political, economic and cultural conditions of his day. We have been there, we are there, but God has accompanied us every step, because He has been there also, Himself. Because of that first Christmas that followed his own 9 months of vulnerable confinement, in the womb of Blessed Mary, God lovingly anticipated every move, every challenge, every step forward that we must make.
How do we go forward. How do we emerge from 9 months of confinement? We follow the Christ child, we learn from Him, we hold Him, we allow Him to slowly grow in our lives so that the child of Bethlehem will emerge in our lives, no longer a baby, weak and vulnerable, but a strong, powerful and fully mature, Man of God, God fully embodied in our humanity accompanying us through every aspect of life, with all its joys, challenges, sufferings and leading us, even through the darkness of death itself to the promise of immortality.
Do not keep God in the darkness. Do not keep Him a baby. Learn from Him, obey His commands, love Him, follow Him, even to His Cross and offer your life to Him in exchange for His. Do so, and our captivity, in whatever shape it takes, will soon be over.