The secret of joy on that Holy Night? —Knowing you are loved by the Lord…
(CUSA) – God came as a child to let us know that we need not be afraid or alienated from Him.
Archbishop Thomas Wenski preaches at the midnight Mass on Christmas Eve 2015 Mass at St. Mary Cathedral. —Ed.
The grim realities of war, terrorism, and poverty; the tragedies of addiction, family break-ups, and violence remind us that we live in a world of fragile peace and broken promises. Yet, we proclaim this night a “holy night”– and we sing with renewed hope “Joy to the World.” That we can do so is because as St. John Paul II once wrote, “the limit imposed on evil of which man is both perpetrator and victim is ultimately Divine Mercy.”
That mercy is born today in Bethlehem – for that child born of the Virgin is God’s promise fulfilled, he is God’s word made flesh, and he is the face of the Father’s mercy.
Mary and Joseph were not what we would call today “people of influence or affluence.” And their child, Jesus, was born in the midst of great hardship – “with no place for them in the inn.” Yet, as they look on the newly born baby lying in a manger, a feedbox for a bed, they are full of joy. They love each other; they help each other and they know that God is at work in their history, the God who made himself present in the Child Jesus.
Even the shepherds rejoiced – although the Child in the manger would not change the facts of their poverty or their marginalization from the “polite society” of the learned and the wise of this world. Yet, they are joyful because their faith allows them to recognize in the child a sign of the fulfillment of God’s promises. Through Christ who is born on that Holy Night God and sinner will be reconciled.
The Christmas decorations, especially the Nativities we display in our churches and our homes depict through lights and images the gospel message, a message summarized by the Apostle John went he wrote: God so loved the world that he gave it his only begotten Son.
As we look at these Nativity scenes, we do well do ask ourselves why God would make himself present to us in this way – why would the almighty come wrapped in the poverty of Bethlehem? Why would he come among us as a little baby?
Perhaps, we can find the answer in the reasons why people live alienated from God.
Some people are alienated because they are afraid of God: often these fears come from distorted images or ideas of God. God appears to them distant yet terrible: he is to them a harsh, demanding taskmaster or an arbitrary policeman in the sky. Often those who did not have the blessing of being raised with a loving father in the home have a hard time understanding God as a loving, merciful father.
Other people are simply angry with God – and for that reason they say far away from him. They blame God for whatever ills that have befallen them, for the apparent unfairness of life.
And today, given the secularism of our society, a society which pretends that God no longer matters, many people are simple indifferent to God.
That’s why God draws near to us as a little baby – weak and vulnerable. He comes as a baby – because it’s hard to be afraid of a little baby. He comes as a baby – because it’s impossible to be angry with a little baby. He comes as a baby – because how could one see a baby’s smile and still remain indifferent to him?
This, of course, is the reason for our joy, a joy for the world. Christmas proclaims that the secret of the joy for which the human heart craves is not found in having a lot of things. To be joyful, we do not just have need of things, but love and truth: We need a God who is near, who warms our heart, and responds to our most profound desires.
The secret of joy – proclaimed by angels from on high – is found in knowing that one is loved by the Lord and this joy is not diminished but grows when we make our lives gifts that for the love of God we share with others. Yes, today the baby whom we adore is the merciful face of the Father whose love for us conquers sin and death.
Feliz Navidad! Bon fèt Nwèl! Merry Christmas!