Church Shepherd’s Fields, Bethlehem
I went to the supermarket the other day, and I could see there are many things on special. It made me think, that actually one reason we celebrate Christmas is because we are special too, not ON SPECIAL as in ‘discounted’ but SPECIAL as in PRICELESS.
To realize this makes our Christmas even more meaningful.
We are special, not in the eyes of the world but because God makes us to be so. The world might say to us, we can only be special if we lived in a house of luxury, if we went to a luxurious holiday, if we are rubbing elbows with the rich and the famous, or if we have the fame and the popularity ourselves.
But God looks through our hearts. We are special for him not because we are rich, or have the things that we wanted to have, but because our true value is in our hearts not on the externals. Just like Christmas presents. What’s important is not the wrapping but what’s inside.
For God, we are worth every penny, we are worth risking for and we are worth dying for.
God loved us human beings so much that he wanted to become like us to experience what it is to be really human. Such is the depth of God’s love for us as St Paul reflects that Christ ‘sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.’ (Tit 2:14)
If we were not special, he wouldn’t bother to be born like one of us so that we would become like him– a resident of his heavenly kingdom. If we were not special for him, he wouldn’t take the risk of stripping himself of his glory and majesty and chose to be born in a lowly manger on top of hay.
If we were not special for God, he would have just left us completely groping in the dark of our sins and sinful human condition. But because we are so special God himself came to be the light for us ‘who walked in the darkness‘ as Prophet Isaiah would say in the first reading. (cf Is 9:1-7)
God loved us so, that he sent his only Son, Jesus– the one who would save us from our sins.
We are that special, that St Paul could say in our Second reading tonight: ‘God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us…to give up everything that does not lead us to God.’
This means that because we are special, God generously opened for us the source of his graces and the fountain of his riches.
If we were not that special to him, we wouldn’t have heard the ‘news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole world’: THAT GOD is born for us, that God has come in the flesh to show us that there is more to life than our sinful nature, ‘that today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.’ (Lk 2:11)
If we are special and if God gives us a special gift of himself as we have remembered and re-lived tonight, then this calls for a celebration and rejoicing. We are to celebrate our value, we rejoice indeed as we received the gift that God has given us- Jesus our Lord.
To rejoice let us first reflect on the child lying in the manger. He was not wrapped in fancy clothing. He wasn’t born from a rich family. He wasn’t born in the children’s hospital where every care he would need would be provided. He chose to be born in a humble, simple ordinary human family, so that we could identify with him quite easily, so that we could get access to him as we are, so that we could reach out to him quite easily without any royal protocols and all other pomposity.
The real present for all of us this Christmas is the child in the manger. But look at him. He wasn’t wrapped with fancy wrappings, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, ordinary to remind us that the real value value of the gift is not on the fancy wrapping, or the size of the gift, but on what’s inside and what does it mean for us.
To receive the gift of God for us is to acknowledge our sins of poverty too. This means that we accept the fact that we need God, that we need one another, that we need a saviour, that we are weak, vulnerable, that we can’t really do whatever we want, however we want it, and that not everything is under our control.
Another way to receive Christ this Christmas is to open our hearts to the other Christs in the streets, in the homes, in our workplaces, everywhere- i.e. the people who like the child in the manger are weak, helpless, vulnerable, simple, and hungry for our love, our care, our support, our time and our compassion. I’m thinking particularly this time the many children in the world who are displaced with or without their families, in the detention centres, in the refugee camps, those people suffering in many countries due to famine, injustice, political conflicts, and greediness of the powerful and the influential.
This Christmas is an opportunity for us to realize that Christ is born for everyone, so we also have the task to look for him in everyone, and to let everyone know that God cares for them, that God is Emmanuel, He is with all of us, among us.
After this mass, as you go, you will be handed with a star on which a name of a country in the world is written. Please remember that particular country in your Christmas celebrations. Please pray for its citizens, especially the children. If you can and if it is possible when you go on holiday consider going to the country you are praying for.
Finally let us always remind ourselves as we sit around our dining table this Christmas, that the real star of Christmas is Christ. Christmas without even thinking of and thanking Christ for coming to us, does not make so much sense. Take the word Christ out of Christmas, what’s left is MAS. It doesn’t mean anything. In Spanish mas means more. Without Christ, we will just be craving for more and more and we will never be satisfied. Only Christ is the answer to all our dreams, aspirations, longings and plan. With peace and the blessings from the Most High, I wish you all a blessed and a solemn Christmas celebration.
Merry Christmas everyone.