The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) at the Vigil Mass
Reading I Isaiah 82:1-5
Psalm 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29
Reading II Acts 13:16-17, 22-25
Gospel Matthew 1:1-25
These past few weeks of Advent, and now on Christmas Day, there has been a thread where God has used an angel to speak to many people and change their lives forever. It started when the angel told Elizabeth that she would have a child. Elizabeth and Zachariah, as we would say today, were in their eighties or nineties. When the angel spoke they said, “This can’t happen.” The angel said, “Do not be afraid.”
The next appearance of the angel came to Mary. “You are going to conceive and bear a son.” Mary said, “I’ve had no relations with a man, this can’t happen.” The angel said, “Don’t talk back to me. This is what’s going to take place.”
Then the angel spoke to Joseph and said, “You are to take Mary as your wife.”
Today in the Gospel Reading, the angels appear to the shepherds — the most unlikely people in the world to which God would send an angel were the shepherds. The shepherds lived with their sheep, they smelled, they didn’t have money, they were rough people. Yet, the angel said, “I want you to go to Bethlehem. You will find a child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger.” Where does this voice come from? But the shepherds went and when they saw Jesus, their lives were never the same.
After Zachariah heard the angel, he couldn’t speak. When John The Baptist was born they took their baby to the temple and when Zachariah gave his son back to God, he could speak again. That was two thousand years ago. The question tonight is: What has God spoken to you?
I think everyone here would have to say, “Oh, he has spoken many times in my life and most of the time I didn’t know how to respond and yet he keeps telling me over and over, ‘Do not be afraid. You have to remember one thing. I love you. The question now is: Do you love me?’ ”
So I want you to think of one experience when someone touched your life, and it was so meaningful to you. That person might not have known he touched your life, but you have never forgotten. It could have been an action or a word. A total stranger could have come up to you and said, “You look like someone I know.” The conversation started and you walked away and thought, “That was strange.” But however God has chosen the angel to speak to you — it is not that you are hearing voices because God speaks to the heart. So he sends us out to speak to others. We don’t know the people who we have said something to, or done something for — and changed their lives drastically. But we do know who touches us. God says, “You need to listen to that voice.”
I am going to share a little story. This happened to me forty or fifty years ago. I lived in a very wealthy parish. But we had a small little community within the parish that was made up of so-called “normal” people. In that village was a couple. They raised their children and they couldn’t get out of their house so every First Friday I took them communion. They were the last people on my list so I would visit and we would sit around and talk. One First Friday they asked, “Would you be open to having lunch with us?”
I said, “Sure. How about next month when I come.” They replied, “That’s fantastic.”
They were just a very neat couple, very much in love. When I came to their house the next First Friday, I shared the Eucharist with them and we sat and talked. Then they said, “Father, we will have lunch now.” I just figured, lunch. We went to the kitchen table and the table was fixed like I was going to a five-star restaurant. I asked, “Why did you go to all this trouble?”
“Oh, it’s no trouble,” they answered. “This is a privilege for us. The dishes that we are using are the dishes that we received on our wedding day many years ago. But you are a special guest in our house.” We sat down, we talked, we ate. And when I left that house, there was that voice. “These are two people I put in your life, and they love you.”
I kept on visiting and the night before I was to leave that parish the gentleman died and I had his funeral. The wife died a couple of years later. They were just wanting to express love. I was not expecting that, but that moment and that lunch transformed my life forever. It is how you and I treat each other that makes Christmas what it really is.
Tonight, who is that person, or that couple, or that family out of many others that touched your life and changed you forever? When the angel spoke, the angel spoke to that couple and to me, the angel spoke to Elizabeth and Zachariah and their lives were never the same. When the angel spoke to Mary and Joseph their lives were never the same. When the angel spoke to the shepherds, they were never the same.
So, sometimes, maybe ninety-nine percent of the time, when the angel wants to speak to us and God’s voice wants to penetrate into our hearts, you and I just throw it off. But when he really wants us to listen, we cannot resist.
God will always take us to another place, he will always surprise us. His news is not old news. He created a Kingdom and he has brought all of us into this Kingdom and from Christmas to Christmas we see new life. And from Christmas to Christmas, we see light snatched from us. The beauty of a child coming into the world is that we don’t know who that child will become. When God takes someone from us, we realize how important that person was. That’s the beauty of staying alive. That’s the beauty of being tuned in, and ever so often when we least expect it God will say to each one of us, “You’re getting very complacent. I want to shake up your life a little bit. I want you to listen. Don’t tell me you’re afraid because I will never change your life in such a way as to harm you. All I want you to see is that the love inside of you is going to become real, and that you are going to be real when someone else can show you his or her love.” And it is that interaction that you and I celebrate on this Holy Night.
Jesus came to give us love. So he is saying to us tonight: “Do you really love me? If you do, stay tuned because you are going to witness my crucifixion, and my death and my resurrection, all because I love you.”
Just remember, these strange voices of the angels all have a purpose and that purpose is that God wants us to be one with Him. He wants that love to be everlasting. All of our stories, and all of our experiences in life when we die, they will die with us. Jesus says, “That’s the way it should be because someone else will be touched. And his or her voice will speak to someone else, and your life will always be filled with love. Your life will always be in the midst of someone else’s life.” So what if this is your first Christmas, or tenth Christmas, or ninetieth Christmas, it doesn’t make any difference because Jesus simply says to us, “Listen to the voice of the angel and you will know that you are loved. All I ask is that on this Christmas is that the love I put into your heart you share to make a difference in someone else’s life.”
Christmas is love. Do you feel loved? If you do, go beyond the Merry Christmas and touch another person’s life. You will never know how much you have changed them until one day the voice says, “Come home. I will reveal to you why you were born, why you lived, and why you died. And the answer simply is: Christmas means, I love you.”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 Disc C 0013)