My brothers and sisters!1
So today is a wonderful night of joy! So tonight, once again, we celebrate God’s plan for his creation and for history, we celebrate his beautiful plan of love for each one of our lives.
Christmas means that the grace of God has appeared to us! The glory of our great God has come — as a great light shining for those walking in darkness, for those living in gloom, without hope.
In the silence of this night, our God comes to us — in that tender scene we know so well from tonight’s Gospel, as we just heard:
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
This Child is God’s plan from the beginning, from before the world was created. And our readings tonight give us a glorious picture of what God intends for this world, what he wants for our lives.
The prophet Isaiah tells us in the first reading that this Child is the “Prince of Peace” — that he will liberate his people, smash the weapons of the oppressors, put an end to every bloody battle.
In the Gospel today, we heard the angels sing:
Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.
So my dear brothers and sisters, we pray especially tonight in communion with the universal Church, for those afflicted by violence and injustice, wars and persecution, for those still in slavery to sin. We especially pray tonight for those who are sick and those who are suffering.
Because God wants peace for his people, he wants abundant joy. The prophet tells us tonight that “the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!” That’s his promise. So, we know that his peace will come, we know that his love will one day fill the earth.
And the sign that he gives us is the sign that he gave to Mary and Joseph and the shepherds on that first Christmas night. The beautiful, quiet sign of a Child being held in the arms of his mother.
I know that many of us have the tradition in our families of putting up little nativity scenes at this time of year. Some families like to visit nativity scenes like the one we have here. I think we have three of them — one here, another one in the back, and then the beautiful one in the Cathedral plaza.
It is a beautiful tradition, a beautiful way that we show our love for the Baby Jesus.
And this Christmas, our Holy Father Pope Francis has written us a wonderful letter about this tradition. He says that every nativity scene is a “living Gospel.”2 And this is so true, my dear brothers and sisters.
Because every nativity scene shows us that Christmas is the feast of the God who comes to be close to us.
Our God is so humble, so tender in his love for us! He created the universe, yet in his humility he exchanges heaven for earth. We cannot reach up to him, so he reaches down to us.
He becomes a Child for you and for me— so that we can know that we are God’s child. So that you can know that God loves you with a love that never ends.
Just think about it for a moment — the Baby Jesus is here because he loves each one of us personally.
He becomes a child of the Virgin Mary to show us that we are all his children, made in his divine image.
And of course, if we are all children of God, then that means everyone is our brother or our sister. It means we are all related, tied together — all humanity is one family of God.
If Christmas is true — and it is! — then that means we need to treat every person the way we want to be treated, with dignity, with respect. It means we need to be forgiving, to show mercy and compassion to others.
The humanity of this Child in the manger, shows us the divine image of the one who comes to us in the stranger. God is present now in the poor and lonely, in the refugee and immigrant, in the prisoner; God is present now in every person that our society or economy cannot find a place for.3
So, my dear brothers and sisters, on this Christmas night, as we come to celebrate the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we are coming to the manger to meet our loving Savior. This Child, tonight once again, is standing at the door to your heart and he is knocking.4
We will have peace, God’s love will fill the earth — when we open our hearts to this Holy Child, when we see God’s image, his glory living in every single person.
So the promise of Christmas is that we can make our whole lives a living “nativity scene.”
Think about it also, just reflect on how that should be present in our lives all the time. It’s not just one night or one day — Christmas night or Christmas day — it is God, the creator of the universe who wants to be with each one of us in our families, at work, in our relationship with people that we work with or live with or meet with in our daily lives.
By his grace, we can make our lives a place where Jesus Christ is being born in our hearts, where we are becoming more like Jesus every day. More humble, more loving, more holy.
It is a day of joy, a wonderful celebration, just understanding how beautiful it is that God wants to be with us.
And then, just the like the shepherds, we start talking about it and we can bring Jesus to every person we meet — just like Mary our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph did. We can bring his tender mercy, his gentle spirit, his forgiveness, into everything we do — in our work, in our homes, in our relationships, in our participation in society.
It is, indeed, a beautiful moment — that’s why we all are here, because we understand that the Child Jesus is God himself. Perfect God and Perfect Man.
So, let us go to the manger tonight. Let us ask God to bring all of his promises to fulfillment — in our times and through our lives.
And let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to intercede for us and give us all a new Christmas of the heart, a new Nativity of the heart. May we all have a joyful and blessed Christmas.