Thank you for coming and celebrating my birthday tonight (today). I, like you, enjoy celebrating, and what we celebrate tonight is cause for much celebration because 2000 years ago, when I was born, people first began to realize that they were no longer in darkness, but that the light was attainable again. People began to realize that I had opened a way for them back into the Garden of Paradise. As my beloved prophet Isaiah proclaimed:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light!
Although this is cause for much celebration, I want to write to you about something. I am human, like you, and so I recognize that for a lot of you, Christmas is a time of pain. Many of you have been blessed growing up with wonderful Christmas memories. Let’s pause there and just smile thinking about those celebrations of the past. Know that in those past celebrations I was there with you, in the midst of your celebrations, and your joy brought great joy to me.
But as we walk through this valley of tears, as we know, things can change. A lot of you are sitting here at this Mass with a sadness because, if it were up to you, a certain person or a group of people would still be with you tonight (Today). Through the years, this congregation has lost brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters. Some of you are sad tonight (today) because you are separated from those who are still living, but are not able to make it home for Christmas. Either way, whatever the cause of the separation, there is no pain like the separation of people who love each other. I want to say to you tonight (Today) that I walk with you in your sorrow. I would not say to you, “move on” “forget”, or “time heals all wounds” – I made you and I love you and like Job’s friends I sit with you in the midst of your sadness.
I’ve heard the expression “I’m just trying to make it through Christmas”. For many of you, Christmas is a more intense reminder of who is NOT here. Precisely because past Christmasses with loved ones and family were so joyous, and were so awesome, Christmas becomes not a time for celebration but a time for being confronted by the grief and depression brought on by recalling the ghosts of Christmases past.
As I said earlier, I would not tell you to stop being sad, because I share your sadness. I made you from before time began. I am not a distant God who rules and commands from afar. I made you because I love you. And I am a human person too. You may recall my reaction when I received word that my good friend Lazarus had died. Again, as my friend and Apostle John wrote: “He wept”
I would like to issue an invitation to you – I want to invite you into the joy of THIS Christmas. I was with you in the past, but I am with you right now in this moment too. The first Christmas turned on a water faucet that is impossible to shut off. The water flows now continuously, and that water is my presence among you. I am flowing forth within all those who love me, bubbling up like a living stream overflowing, and so I am constantly “being born” and coming forth in this moment, in new ways.
My adversary has one plan – to tear down everything that I build up. Since you are my greatest creation and my greatest love, he wants nothing more than to tear you down and imprison you in guilt, fear, shame, and memories of the past, terrified to receive me in this moment. Do not let him win – remember the past and its joys but don’t be so burdened by your grief that you can’t meet me now. In your country, the word for “the now” is referred to as “the present” and it is my gift to you. I invite you to unwrap it and see the miracles I am working around you and the miracles I want to work through you THIS Christmas as well.
I loved you then, I love you now, and I will love you for all time. So let Heaven and Nature sing, let Heaven and nature sing because the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
Merry Christmas now and always!