Nativity of the Lord December 15, 2016
Isaiah 9, 1-6 + Psalm 96 + Titus 2,11-14 + Luke 2, 1-14
St Peter and St William Churches in Naples, FL
Christmas is a feast of the heart. It reveals to us the very and true heart of God. At the same time, it reveals what the human heart can become. It causes us to open our hearts and begin to live. What makes us human is not so much the ability to think as it is the ability to love.
If you take the time to think about it, and what better time to do that than this very hour, we are here because of love and a gift of love. It is the gift of God’s only son that we celebrate today. The importance and the value of this gift is the fact that there is and was only one Son. We did not get an extra or a spare. We did not get an imitation or a reproduction. We go the only one. This is the kind of gift that only a lover can give to a loved one. Yet there is even more to it than that. How this gift came to us matters as well.
God’s only Son could have come in power, but he didn’t. If he had come that way, we might have reason to be afraid or threatened. We would have reason to feel small or weak. God’s only Son could have come in wealth, but he didn’t. If he had come that way, it would have made us aware of our own poverty, and so we might have become envious which damages the human heart. As the story goes, he did not come in power and in wealth. He came in weakness and poverty. His weakness makes us aware of our own strength, and his poverty makes us aware of our riches. His poverty awakens us compassionate bringing our hearts to life. It was the poverty of the Child Jesus that opened the treasures of the Magi, and the poverty of Jesus challenges us too with an opportunity to open our hearts.
I want to share with you a little story that gave me these thoughts. Frank O’Connor was an Irish writer. With that name he certainly wasn’t from Romania! His autobiography is called: “An Only Child.” In it he tells about a Christmas when Santa brought him a toy engine. It was the only gift he received. His mother took him to visit the sisters at the local convent Christmas afternoon, and he took his engine along to show the sisters. While there, one of the sisters took him to see the crib in the convent chapel. As he looked in he became upset that the Child Jesus was there without a single present, and he knew how the child Jesus felt, the sadness of having been forgotten. Turning to the nun, he asked why? The nun said to him: “His mother is too poor to buy presents.” At that, even though his own mother was so poor there was only one present for him, in a reckless act of generosity he climbed into the crib scene with his toy engine and placed it in the arms of the baby Jesus showing the baby how to wind it up because a baby would not be clever enough to know things like that.
It seems to me that Frank O’Connor’s story and his experience is both the story of God’s love and then our own. God has climbed into the crib with us, and God has shown us how to love, how to forgive, and how to make peace which we do seem clever enough to know on our own. He has shown us how to repair what has been broken by sin and restore us to our rightful place, Paradise. It is our story too because it tells what the human heart can really accomplish when it is brought to life – the fullness of life which me might call, grace.
So we have today a feast of the heart. The feast of God’s heart opened to give life where there is death and light where there is darkness; a feast of weakness and poverty. It is also then, the feast of the human heart made human by love and made divine by grace. It is a feast that awakens us to our riches and the power we have with them to give life and hope, light and joy to those who are forgotten and sad.