Present Here and Now
Homily for the Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ
Preached on December 24-25, 2011 at St. Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY and St. Mary Catholic Church, Perryville KY
Readings for the Vigil Mass: Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29; Acts of the Apostles 13:16-17, 22-25; Matthew 1:1-25
Readings for the Mass at Night: Isaiah 9:1-6; Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Readings for the Mass during the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see
way up in the sky, little lamb?
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star
dancing in the night
with a tail as big as a kite,
with a tail as big as a kite.”
Tonight is fulfilled the ancient prophecy of Isaiah: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Is. 9:1). Tonight the one Morning Star who never sets (cf. Exsultet) pierces that dark sky, beckoning those from afar to come and find Him who is our Creator cradled in the arms of His creation. The lamb and all the other creatures in the cave of Bethlehem invite us to see what they see: the One who is greater than all the constellations in the sky sleeping in their lowly manger (cf. Lk. 2:12).
Before this night, the face of God could not be seen; the Lord dwelt in unapproachable light (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16). But tonight, the dark days are over: we now can see God’s countenance in this Christ-Child; we now can reach out for His hand and hold Him. Here in this Church is Bethlehem, which in Hebrew means “house of bread,” and there at that tabernacle is the crib where the Body of Christ rests.
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
“Do you hear what I hear
ringing through the sky, shepherd boy?
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song
high above the tree
with a voice as big as the sea,
with a voice as big as the sea.”
Tonight is sung the new song called for by the psalmist of old: “Sing to the Lord a new song,” David said, “for He has done wondrous deeds” (Ps. 98:1). Yet, this new song came not from the mouth of men; it was heard from the choir of cherubim caroling to the shepherds of Judea (cf. Lk. 2:8-14). Those shepherds invite us to hear what they hear: the good news of great joy that “today in the city of David a Savior has been born for us who is Christ and Lord” (Lk. 2:11).
Before this night, a single angel would come to deliver God’s news and we in silence would listen. But tonight, we mere mortals dare to join that immortal chorus in singing with a singular voice a new song to the Lord: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests” (Lk. 2:14).
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know
in your palace wall, mighty king?
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child
shivers in the cold.
Let us bring him silver and gold.
Let us bring him silver and gold.”
Tonight is fulfilled the primordial promise of God: “a Child is born to us, a Son is given us; upon His shoulder dominion rests” (Is. 9:5). The shepherds had come to give the Christ-Child homage (cf. Lk. 2:15-20); strangers from the East traveled to offer Him gifts (cf. Mt. 2:1-2, 11). But Herod the king hesitated to bring Him silver and gold. He assumed that the Child shivering in the cold was a threat to His throne (cf. Mt. 2:3). He did not know what the wise men knew: that this Child had come not to claim our earthly spoils but to offer us the heavenly inheritance (cf. Ti: 3:7).
On this night “the true light which enlightens everyone…came to what was His own but His own people did not accept Him. But to those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God” (Jn. 1:9, 11-12).
Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen to what I say:
Pray for peace, people everywhere.
Listen to what I say:
The Child, the Child
sleeping in the night,
He will bring us goodness and light.
He will bring us goodness and light.”
Tonight we heed the ancient call of Isaiah the prophet: “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet” (Is. 62:1). The king in this carol fulfills this call to share the Good News of Christmas to people everywhere. We too cannot be silent about Christmas as though it were a secret; we cannot be quiet about it when it heralds our salvation. We have to say with the night wind, “Do you see what I see?” “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:5). We have to say with the little lamb, “Do you hear what I hear?” With one voice, Heaven and earth, angels and men are singing “Glory to God in the highest.” We have to say with the shepherd boy, “Do you know what I know?” Our God, our God is present here and now! Give your hearts to Him and bow. Give your hearts to Him and bow.