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Homily for Christmas 2023

A few days ago, I was looking through the various different readings for

Christmas, for the Vigil Mass, the Mass During the Night, the Mass at

Dawn and the Mass During the Day, and various memories came back.

You might have the same thing too. You read certain readings and you

maybe remember the voice of a certain reader from your childhood,

perhaps with his or her own particular style. Or maybe you might read the

psalm and it reminds you of a particular setting that was sung some years

ago. Memories come flooding back.


So, just a few of my memories, some good, some not so good or a bit silly.


In my first parish, there were three priests living at the main church, and

we covered three other Mass centres within the parish at the weekend. The

one Christmas we were a bit late getting the altar servers’ presents, so

whilst one of the priests got ready for the first Mass in the main church, I

was sent off to the supermarket. I reversed my car into the parking space,

and suddenly heard a crunch. Thankfully, there was no visible damage.

And the bumper didn’t fall off later on.


We always had a Mass at Midnight, and for my first Midnight Mass, which

all three priests concelebrated together, I can remember the choir pulling

out all the stops, but also that I was so tired that my vision was going, and

I had to say the Eucharistic Prayer partially from memory.


In my third parish, we had two Christmas trees. The way we got the

second one was that the parish school thought it a bit of a waste to get rid

of theirs when the school closed for Christmas, so they would pass it onto

us. So that Saturday evening, when the other priest helping me out in the

parish unlocked the church, he walked across the porch in the dark to the

light switch, and straight into the tree. “Where did that come from?” were

his words, or something similar.


Of course, another memory that you might also share with me comes from

the TV musical Scrooge:


Of all the days in all the year

That I'm familiar with

There's only one that's really fun

December the twenty-fifth!

Correct!


Ask anyone called Robinson

Or Brown, or Jones, or Smith,

Their favourite day and they will say

December the twenty-fifth!

Correct!


December the twenty-fifth, m'dears

December the twenty-fifth

The dearest day in all the year

December the twenty-fifth!

Correct!


So why is Christmas so important? Padre Pio once said something along

the lines of that, whilst Easter is the most important feast in the Church’s

calendar, there was something about Christmas that touched his heart.

God isn’t a God who is just all seriousness; He didn’t beam down as an

adult. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, yes; He was

born in a miraculous manner that preserved Our Lady’s integrity, yes, but

He was born as a defenceless baby. He wanted to be approachable, and for

us to approach Him. We are important to Him. A few years ago, Pope

Francis wrote a reflection on the nativity scene. He said that there is often

the background of a starry sky. This isn’t just a reflection of the biblical

scene, but it reminds us of those times when we have experienced the

darkness in our own lives. Even then, he says:


“God does not abandon us, but is there to answer our crucial questions

about the meaning of life. Who am I? Where do I come from? Why was

I born at this time in history? Why do I love? Why do I suffer? Why will

I die? It was to answer these questions that God became man. His

closeness brings light where there is darkness and shows the way to those

dwelling in the shadow of suffering (cf. Lk 1:79).”


And then he goes on to talk about the fact that some nativity scenes, rather

than being set in a cave, are surrounded by ruins. The pope says that this

symbolises “the visible signs of fallen humanity, of everything that

inevitably falls into ruin, decays and disappoints. … Jesus is the newness

in the midst of an ageing world, … [and] has come to heal and rebuild, to

restore the world and our lives to their original splendour.” [Both quotes

are from para 4 of Admirable Signum]


We could say that part of the story of Scrooge is about how someone who

had made a mess of his life, and the lives of others, who experiences the

grace of God, has a change of heart and lives a new life. All over

Christmas night. December the twenty-fifth is so good m’dears because of

Who is behind it all. So, as I draw to a close, first, a quote from Pope

Benedict:


“Do we have time for our neighbour who is in need of a word from us,

from me, or in need of my affection? Do we have time and space for God?

Can he enter into our lives? Does he find room in us, or have we occupied

all the available space in our thoughts, our actions, our lives for

ourselves?”


Whatever we answer to this when we look back at Christmas past, we can

look now to the Christ-child for Christmas present and then allow Him to

shape Christmas future. He is the Lord, and all things are in His hands.

And He knows, with His help, what good things we are capable of.

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