Fr. Wilson Andrade is the pastor of St. Ann Parish and the Native Peoples’ Mission, both in Toronto.
There is a story of a father who came home to see that his five-year-old daughter had torn the wrapping paper off of the gifts he had just wrapped for his friends. He was upset and did not know what to do about it. But his daughter presented him with a big box covered with torn pieces of wrapping paper. The father took the box and opened it, eager to find out what his child had given him. But the box was empty.
Now the father wanted to teach his daughter a lesson, so he told her that when someone presents a gift, it should not be an empty box, you have to put a gift in the box.
What a surprise he had when the little girl, full of joy, said, “Oh, daddy, the box is not empty. I blew all my kisses in it for you.”
“Joy to the World,” the song of the angels announcing the birth of Jesus, still has its purpose and promise in our pandemic times. This year, Christmas is celebrated with many precautions: socially distanced; empty; alone; and may be for most of us, a silent reflection of the continued Advent spirit in our expectation of normalcy. As people of faith and love, we live with hope and in humility, knowing that we will be embraced in the holiness of God.
I would like to reflect with you on three words: Hope; Humility; and Holiness.
Hope becomes real for us during these difficult times in which we are living. We are expecting the freedom we previously enjoyed – the social life we shared, family celebrations where we gathered, not needing rules or restrictions and having no fear of an unknown virus. We live in hope and in solidarity with all of humanity, who have suffered during this pandemic. An unknown poet creatively expressed: “We are not in the same boat, we are in the same storm, each one suffering on their own, do not criticize or condemn, be compassionate and caring…”
We live in hope as people of faith in God, a God who is love. Christmas is a time to experience the embrace of God’s incarnate love. Christmas is one of the times when we can radiate God’s love to others who are suffering in our family, our community and our society. Hope fills us with freedom, it opens hearts to love and it opens our minds to positive thoughts. Hope encourages us to be creatively courageous by bringing healing, joy and peace to all.
Let us live in hope, taking inspiration from the words of Pope St. John XXIII:
“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”
We reflect: Are we people of hope who bring peace, joy and healing to others in this world?
Hope touches the core of our human spirit, opening the humble heart, to make the impossible, possible. We see this in the angelic advice was given to the Blessed Virgin Mary, “for nothing will be impossible with God,” which guided her to the humble fiat: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done according to your Word.”
Mary’s humble openness to the divine encounter ushered the plan of God’s salvation. Christmas is a story of divine humility; Word made flesh; God becoming human for our salvation. Humility makes our human spirit hope, be patient, be prudent and be progressive.
The Christmas story in the Gospel confirms God’s plan for our salvation. Jesus was born in our human history, during the time of the Emperor Augustus, and in a tiny place called Bethlehem, a firstborn child given birth to by his Mother Mary, and protected and cared for by her husband Joseph. A message of good news proclaimed by the angelic hosts, witnessed by the humble shepherds. The Christmas story transformed our history with its humble origin, by its radical message of love, liberating us to embrace our humanity, upholding dignity and respecting the life of the whole creation.
The Christmas story calls on us to reflect that our human existence is not separate from divine reality. We are created in the image and likeness of God, so that we can reclaim our identity of being human in our times. Let this Christmas transform us with love, shared with divine humility.
We hope with humility to be embraced in the holiness of God, as we listen to the words of beautiful Christmas carols, such as: “Silent night, holy night.”
Christmas is a time to experience divine holiness. In our Christian history, we can learn that no one and nothing – not even the modern consumerist world – can take away the true spirit of Christmas: Holiness hidden in the divine humility.
We should not miss the meaning of Christmas, no matter how it is expressed: in the liturgy in which we participate; the songs we sing; the family dinner we enjoy; or the messages and gifts we share. We celebrate Christmas with divine humility shared with our humanity, proclaiming: Today, a Saviour has been born to us: He is Christ the Lord.
Let us join the prophetic people we hear in the Scriptures, in the poetic psalms we sing, with the holy men and women who lived in faith, joyfully proclaiming the Gospel's message of love. That love was a child wrapped in swaddling clothes born in Bethlehem.
In humility, let us believe in the mystery of God’s love, who became one with us by the birth of Jesus in our human history, which the angels proclaimed by singing, “Glory to God in the Highest.” And who the wise seekers, guided by the shining of a star, found the true light of the universe, and they kneeled before the Child Jesus, God’s incarnate love. We ask ourselves: How can we be open to God’s holiness in Jesus, God’s incarnate love, transforming us with his divine humility, filling us with joy, peace and love?
Be born in us incarnate love, Lord Jesus, fill us with your joy, peace and love. May we live in hope with you, immersed in your humility, embraced within your holiness, to radiate your loving presence to the whole of creation. Amen
This homily is based on the readings for Christmas, Year C: Isaiah 9.2-4, 6-7; Psalms 96; Titus 2.11-14; and Luke 2.1-16.