"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light…"
At midnight during the darkest time of the year, we walk through darkness, drawn by the light of the Cathedral, light echoed these past weeks by store lights and house lights and street lights that not only show us the way but encourage us to find our way with others. No one wants to live in darkness. We feel unsafe and unsure. Two thousand years ago, God decorated the world with the light of Jesus, his Eternal Word become visible in our flesh. The invisible God took on our human nature so that we could see the glory of God in an infant and so that our lives would be brightened by the truth about God and about ourselves.
Because we see God in human flesh, "God from God, Light from Light," as we will chant in a few moments, we are able to look at the world as God sees it. We can, if we have eyes to see, form judgments about persons, events, changes, objects in the way that God forms his judgments. We have access to God's mind and heart through the Word made flesh. In the light of faith, we can see the outline of eternity in time.
Coming into God's presence together now, looking at ourselves as he sees us, we recognize, first of all, that we are no longer just God's creatures, made in his image and likeness; we are his sons and daughters, stamped with the image of his Son. Because the eternal Son of God has become one of us, we are his brothers and sisters, sons and daughters who therefore dare to call God our Father. We discover that the human race, created by God, has become the human family, saved by the Son who has taken our flesh and made it his own.
In a family, we learn to be patient with one another. Parents know that children are not always cooperative. Even newborn babies don't always sleep on their parents' schedule! How patient God is with us, how carefully he planned our salvation, how respectful he is of us. We need, therefore, to be patient with God; not demand that he do things our way, fulfill our plans and dreams, which too often, as we know, lead us away from the path of salvation and keep us locked in darkness. God is patient with us; be patient with God in turn. Look for his ways and follow his light.
This family of God inhabits a kingdom proclaimed by Jesus when he began to preach, to explain to the world who he is. It is a kingdom in this world, as Jesus is in this world, but not of this world, as Jesus transcends this world. It is a kingdom, where the last, a baby born to poor parents insignificant in worldly eyes, will be first: the savior of the world and the ruler of the universe, who will return to judge the living and the dead. It is not empires and dictatorships, nor even democracies, that truly change the world. Much of political rhetoric brings great emptiness and often great destruction. The Lord does not change the world by force but by the silent light of truth. God is present to us; we are not forgotten and we are never alone. We are not the result of chance but of God's will to create and to love. That is the truth that lights our way now and forever.
Christmas Mass brings us again into the real presence of our Savior. A baby was born, God's word was made flesh two thousand years ago; we recall this unique historical event and we celebrate in our hearts and in our families, mindful of those brothers and sisters in need of food and shelter and, like all of us, in need of the truth and the hope that it brings. At Mass, at the words of consecration in each Eucharistic celebration, bread made by human hands becomes the flesh of the Eternal Word of God. The same flesh born of the Virgin Mary is given to us under the form of bread, so that we might partake here of the seeds of immortality, of the risen life that this new born baby came to share with us. We cannot understand how God took on human flesh, nor can we understand how a crucified human body rose from the dead and is now free to be really with us sacramentally; but these are the most important truths in human history. These are the truths that light our way tonight and each day of our lives, until we come into the presence of the living God at the moment of our death to this world.
"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light." We are safe, we are loved, we are God's family now and forever. That is the truth about Christmas. Amen.