Homily by Father Alex McAllister SDS
Time constantly moves us on and every year that goes by seems shorter than the last one. And here we are already at Christmas once again. We gather in this Church as we do each year to celebrate the great feast of the Nativity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
It is a moment of great spiritual joy for us all; a wonderful opportunity to stop and pause for reflection as we celebrate one of the Church’s most wonderful feasts. It is a kind of punctuation mark in the year giving us the opportunity to reflect on our faith and to take stock of our lives.
As we do this we need to call to mind exactly what it is we are celebrating. It is nothing less than the entrance into the world of our Divine Saviour. This is a most extraordinary and unprecedented event. Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was intimately involved in the creation of the universe is sent into the world by the Father to save us from ourselves and from the sin to which we are so prone.
That the architect of the universe should enter into his own creation is unprecedented enough; but for him to take on human form and to live among us is even more extraordinary. It is therefore vitally important that we grasp the astonishing nature of what happened on that first Christmas Day.
When it comes to Christmas most people take delight in the story and marvel at the tiny child lying in the manger who somehow represents innocence and therefore all other new born babes. They experience warm feelings of nostalgia and remember the wonder they experienced in the Christmases of their childhood.
The Church in its liturgy invites us to recall the journey to Bethlehem and the fact that Mary and Joseph could find no other place than the dilapidated stable where Jesus could be born. It invites us to marvel at the singing of the angels and the appearance of the shepherds and the wise men. And it reminds us of the danger that the baby Jesus faced and then the hasty journey by the Holy Family into the refuge of Egypt.
We are caught up in this wonderful story and in the legends that surround it and we tell them to our children and take delight in their own wonderment at the birth of Jesus.
Often though we forget the cosmic nature of this unique event. Yes, the story is beautiful and entrancing and it is right that we take comfort from it. But more important is the fact that it marks the breaking in of God into his own creation. What it is vital for us to understand is the vast scope of what God planned and the earth-shattering effect that it has on us all.
God uniquely created us as beings with free will, with the ability to make real and important choices in life. These choices include making the most important choice of all which is the decision whether to love God or not.
Each one of us knows that in our personal life all too often we have chosen to go our own way and to reject God. We have frequently decided to embrace sin rather than to do God’s will. Sin as we know separates us from God, it pushes us away from our true destiny which is to enjoy life with God in heaven. Of course, after due reflection we frequently repent of our selfishness and in those moments we decide to choose once again to embrace God’s love and forgiveness.
The problem is that the effects of sin are long term. Sin damages us spiritually and it causes harm to the whole human race. This needs healing and it is to forgive the whole of humanity and to bring us this healing that the Christ Child came into the world on that first Christmas Day.
This is what we have to understand as we contemplate the scene in the Christmas Crib. That Jesus is the Son of God who adopted human form and who came into our world in order to submit himself to death by human hands. He did this so that in his resurrection he could turn everything to our advantage and so manifest his forgiveness of every human being.
This is what Christmas means and it is of the utmost significance for the entire world. It is something that we celebrate and take joy in but it is also something that we know we must proclaim to all those who have not fully understood what it is really about.
Our desire this Christmas is that the real significance of the feast permeates our whole lives and changes us. Our wish is that it makes us better people and turns us definitively away from sin. We also want the good effects it has on us to be transmitted to the rest of the human family.
Let us look once again at the stable in Bethlehem. We all know that birth of Jesus was first revealed to shepherds. The angels announced to those shepherds that the Saviour was born close by and invited them to go and worship him.
It was no mistake that the birth of the Lord was revealed first of all to these shepherds rather than to the high and mighty lords, the aristocracy of the City of David. These shepherds were simple men, they were essentially people of no great significance, in other words quite ordinary people. They had no great learning and in the great scheme of things they were without power or influence.
Yet God deliberately chooses to reveal this wonderful news first and foremost to them. God chooses them because he wants to demonstrate from the outset that Christ has come as a Saviour for all men and not merely for the elite. He comes to save every single person; the high and the low, the powerful and the weak.
For Christ there are no distinctions of class or wealth, he is the Saviour of the whole of humanity. In fact, if there is any favouritism in him at all it is his fondness for the poor and the lowly.
This is an important lesson for us as we celebrate the birth of Jesus. It tells us that we should not make distinctions between people. Christ has saved us all; and if he does not make distinctions between people then as his followers neither should we.
It is not easy to learn this lesson because our constant tendency is to separate ourselves from other people based on decisions we make about their class, wealth, learning, creed or all sorts of other things. But the lesson of today is that if Christ does not make these distinctions then it is not for us to do so either.
The Fathers gathered here, and I, wish you great joy on this most Holy Night as together we celebrate in a liturgical way, through the solemn celebration of the Eucharist, the birth of the infant King of the Jews, the Son of God, our Divine Saviour.
We ask God to pour out his blessings upon each one of you and also on your entire families. We ask God to keep you safe, to fill you with wonder at the incarnation of Christ and to give you strong faith and lasting hope in Jesus Christ, his Son, our Saviour.
St Joseph's Catholic Church
191 High Road
18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
09.30 (Family Mass)
11.00 (Solemn Mass)
12.30 (With Hymns)
Weekdays: 07.30 & 10.00
Confessions: Saturday 10.30-11.00 & 19.00-19.30
St Joseph's Catholic Church
T: 020 8427 1955
Saturday: 18.00 (Vigil with Hymns)
Sunday: 08.15, 09.30 (Family Mass), 11.00 (Solemn Mass), 12.30, 18.00
Weekdays: 07.30, 10.00 - additional mass every first Friday at 19.00
Saturday: 11.00 & 19.00-19.30
First Friday: 18.00-18.45
EXPOSITION & BENEDICTION
First Friday: 18.00-18-45