My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Merry Christmas to you all!
Today, it’s a beautiful night as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to welcome all of you again to our Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels for this beautiful celebration.
It is a day of joy — night of joy — as we heard that the shepherd were happy, the angels were happy, the whole world was happy and we are very happy. Because we are celebrating, as I said, the birth of Jesus.
This is the night of real love. The night our savior is born. La noche buena. The beautiful night.
This is the night of peace and joy! Those are not just words, beautiful thoughts and intentions. Tonight, we find that joy and peace have a human face.
There is no greater love than the love of God. And tonight on Christmas, God reveals his love completely — in this Child who is born in the manger at Bethlehem.
And I think that’s the first thing that we have to reflect on about Christmas tonight.
Christmas is real! The events that we just heard about tonight in our Gospel reading are historical, they really happened.
As we hear in the Proclamation before the beginning of Mass and in the passage of the Gospel. But also historians tell us that Caesar Augustus really did call a census. That meant people were forced to go back to their hometowns, including Mary and Joseph. They were living in Nazareth and they had to go back to their hometown of Bethlehem to enroll in the census.
And, as we heard, while they were there, Mary had a baby and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
So the first thing about what we are celebrating tonight is that it’s true. It’s a true story. It’s not just something that somebody kind of put together, it is true, it happened.
And the second thing we need to reflect about our celebration of Christmas tonight is that Jesus is not just an ordinary infant; he did not grow up to be an ordinary man.
Jesus is the Son of God! So Christmas is true, but it also true that Jesus is the son of God. He is God who has come to us in human flesh. We heard those beautiful words of the prophet Isaiah in tonight’s first reading, words that are very familiar to us:
For a Child is born to us, a Son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
This is who Jesus is. He is our God, our Father, the Prince of Peace.
That’s what Christmas — that’s what the “incarnation” — is all about. God has come down from heaven to enter into the womb of a mother.
And we should think, my dear brothers and sisters, about everything that God has put himself through just to be with us because it is beautiful, amazing.
He is the Lord of heaven and earth, the God who created the universe. And yet he made a choice to spend nine months in a mother’s womb, just like each one of us, or most of us — I mean some were nine months, some were eight months, is what I’m trying to say. He made himself vulnerable and small, totally dependent upon the love and care of Mary and Joseph. Just like any human person.
It’s that amazing? That the creator of heaven and earth wanted to be just like us in everything except in sin.
Now, why would he do that?
The answer, my dear brothers and sisters, is one word. Love. He did it out love. Love for you and for me. He did it out of love for everyone who has ever lived and everyone who ever will live.
So that’s the third thing that we should reflect about on as we celebrate Christmas. It’s all about love.
If we only knew how much God loves each one of us! It’s amazing! That’s why he came down on Christmas — to show us how much he loves each one of us.
And it’s real and it’s true. God wants to be with us. Emmanuel. God with us.
Christmas shows us that God is not high above this world. He is not far away or too big to care about us. That’s what people think sometimes, isn’t that true? That God is so far away that he has nothing to do with us. They think God is too big, they think that it cannot be possible for him to know everybody, that he cannot possibly care about me or you?
But he can — and he does! The angel tells us today in the Gospel: A Savior has been born for you. God is a personal God and he loves us with a personal love. God loves you, each one of you. God loves me, too. Personally. He knows each one of us by name. He knows everything about each one of us and he loves — really loves — us personally.
So tonight, on this night of real love, God is calling us to come to the manger in Bethlehem. He is calling us to go to Jesus. Just as the angel called the shepherds so many centuries ago.
And God is saying the same thing to us that he said to the shepherds — to each one of us: Do not be afraid.
It’s God who is calling us. It’s God who loves us. It’s God who care about us. God, who know everything about us. And he knows that we all are trying to do the best we can. But he also knows that sometimes we make choices that lead our lives in the wrong direction.
He knows that sometimes we make mistakes. That sometimes we have the sad reality of committing sins. God knows all of that and he loves us just the same. Isn’t that beautiful? No matter what, God loves us, personally.
So if we really want to find true happiness, true joy, if we want to know that our lives have meaning and purpose — then we need God. That’s why we are here tonight. We need the gift of salvation — the forgiveness and mercy that he offers us tonight on Christmas. That’s the reason for which Jesus also came. He’s our savior and he came to give us the opportunity to the joy and peace, as much as possible here on earth, and eternally in heaven.
And that’s why we are so happy — not just because we are getting some presents, or because, you know, it is easier to buy this or that, or have this or that — we are happy because we understand, as I’m trying to reflect with all of you tonight, we understand that God is with us, and that he really loves us.
So let’s go to the Child in the manger tonight. Let’s open our hearts to the love of God that is waiting for us there — to his mercy and his promise of a new life.
And let us, my dear brothers and sisters, in a simple but real way, try to share with people around us the beautiful good news that God loves us personally, as he’s calling us to be people of peace and joy. Let’s share that with people around us: the joy of knowing that we are special for God. That God is close to me, to each one of us, and that he’s calling us to joy and peace.
I wish all of you and wonderful, blessed Christmas with your families. And on this day of real love, may our Blessed Mother Mary help all of us to know the joy of Christmas, the joy of God’s presence and love.
1. Readings (Mass During the Night): Isa, 9:1-6; Ps. 96:1-3, 11-13; Tit. 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14.