Every year, when I sit down to think about what to preach on at these Christmas Masses, I think: “What could I possibly say that’s new?” We’ve heard these stories - some of us, for many years.
What is there that Christmas still has to teach us?
Well, every year, I realize that it’s not about finding some new interpretation of this feast. Usually, the most important thing we can learn is returning to a truth we’ve already heard. Tonight, I’d like to briefly talk to you about the message of Christmas.
Depending on where you look, Christmas has many different messages. Movies and Hallmark cards tell us that Christmas is about giving (or receiving); or it’s about family; or it’s about some kind of magical feeling that is created by lights and music and (usually) snow. All of those things may be partly true, but they are not the real message of Christmas - because that message is one that comes from God.
All of our readings tonight speak to us about God’s promise. He promises to redeem His people - to save them. He’s been promising that almost since the beginning, when humanity had fallen into sin and immediately He foretold a savior; and God has promised true salvation from sin and death throughout history. He revealed Himself to the people of Israel. He gave them His commandments to follow. He spoke through the prophets - prophets like Isaiah who we heard tonight. Through Isaiah God promised that one day He would come and rule His people - that He would be like a spouse to them.
God’s message was slowly revealed - but it wasn’t complete. The whole message wasn’t spoken until that night in Bethlehem when Mary had her son. On that first Christmas, God message to the world was finally spoken - and it came in the form of a helpless baby.
What does that message say? Exactly what we should expect if we’ve been paying attention:
“I love you.”
“I love you so much, that I am giving myself to you”
“I love you so much, that I am becoming one of you.”
“I love you so much, that I am going to enter into human existence - experience pain, hunger, fear, sadness, betrayal, even death.”
God had revealed Himself before - in thunder and lightning, in power and majesty - but now He comes as a child. Why? So that we can love Him.
The message of Christmas is God telling us that, no matter how messed up things are, how far away we’ve run from Him, how hopeless we may feel - He loves us and is willing to give everything He is so that we can be with Him and know that love.
Christmas is God saying: “Here I am, all of me, all for you.” God has spoken His final Word to the world and it is unconditional love.
That means that there is a Christmas message that comes from us as well. God says He loves us and gives Himself to us - what do we say back?
Do we treat Him like the innkeeper and say that we have not room in our lives for an inconvenience like Him?
Do we treat Him like Herod and say that He’s an enemy to my freedom and my power?
Do treat Christmas as just another pleasant holiday that we enjoy and then move on without acknowledging that what is offered to us is Love beyond anything we could imagine?
Or do we welcome Him like Joseph - who, though he was afraid and confused, made a place for Jesus in His life?
Or the shepherds who saw God in the face of an infant and humbly knelt and worshipped?
How we respond to the unbelievable love of God is our message to Him at Christmas. He’s spoken to us. In Jesus, the Father says, “I offer you nothing but Love - come and be with Me.”
What will we say back?