Midnight Mass: Christmas (December 25, 2016)

We have just heard the most important message we can ever hear. In the familiar story of the birth of Jesus, our God is telling us how much he loves us. It’s easy to get caught up in the scene we heard Luke paint for us. We wonder: God’s own Son has chosen to come among us as a tiny infant. We see his Mother binding him up in swaddling clothes and putting him in an animal-feeding trough.

There isn’t any room for the family in the traveler’s lodge. We are awed when an angel appears to the shepherds to tell them that the long-awaited Messiah-Savior has come. And we share their amazement when they hear that they will find him in a manger. We may even hear the angel chorus praising God: “Glory to God in high heaven.” We long to share the peace given to those on whom God’s favor rests.

Today’s reading from St. Paul brings us back to earth a little as he reminds us that there’s a purpose for this appearance of God’s grace - our salvation. This infant has come to sacrifice himself for us, to redeem us from unholy things, and cleanse a people who will be eager to do what is right. That’s you and me!

We have accepted the offer of God’s saving grace. Now we must allow ourselves to follow the lead of grace. That means rejecting godless ways and worldly desires, and living balanced, just and holy lives. In this way, we can confidently await our blessed hope - the coming again of our Savior to complete the kingdom.

Just as surely as Jesus came among us as an infant in a manger, he will come again with the fullness of salvation. We have nothing to fear. Jesus comes this night with tidings of great joy to be shared by all of us.

We have so much love to celebrate. As we make our way to the manger tonight (today), let us hold our heart in our hands as a gift for the Word made flesh. Jesus will take it and fill it with the fullness of his love and peace. Then he will return it to us as his gift, and ask us to share his gift of love and peace with everyone around us - within our families and among our relatives and friends. That sharing is the best gift we can give each other this Christmas.