Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Homily for Christmas Eve

I used to be afraid of the dark.  Like most little kids I was afraid of the dark.

The creaking floorboards, the rustling shutters, the random bump in the dark cold night filled me with terror.  So I hid under the covers, to protect me from the dark.

But you know what I’ve learned?  Even big people get afraid of the dark, and there’s a lot of darkness out there.  And there’s a lot of darkness in here.

The darkness of the man who sits in a pew and all he can think of is what he did wrong, and how no one can forgive him.  Certain he will be found out, his future is dark and foreboding…promising only shame and humiliation.

The darkness of the woman who buried her best friend this year, the man to whom she'd been married for fifty-six years, and after all the cancer and the pain and uncertainty he’s gone.  And when she went to get in the car to go to Christmas Mass alone for the first time in fifty-six years it seemed awfully  dark and cold out there.

The darkness of the parent whose child is in pain and in the hospital

The darkness of the mother in Aleppo who cradles her baby against the bombs

The darkness of the teen who feels unloved and unlovable and estranged from family and friends

The darkness of an addiction that grabs you from the gut and keeps pulling you down no matter how many times you get up and it just won’t stop

The darkness of the distance between you and the person you’ve been married to all these years who really doesn’t seem to like you any more

There’s a lot of darkness out there. And we we are the people who walk in darkness all of the time.  And Isaiah has a message for us:

The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; 
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, 
on them has light shined.

He’s talking about us, upon whom the “Son of God, love’s pure light” shines this night.

For the light of the love that shines through that Child dispels all darkness:

On this night the light of the little child shines upon the lonely and the forgotten, the abandoned and the fearful with the light of his truth that you will never be alone again.

On this night the God who for love of such as us let's go of his Godhead, power and glory and becomes a little child, born in a manger and nailed to a cross: a crib and a cross for the likes of me! He shines upon the corrupting and decrepit, the sick and decaying rot of sin, dispelling the power of death: love descending to a crib and rising from the tomb with the assurance that he is the first and we are to follow. Never to lose innocence again, never to be abandoned without hope, we live with the sure and certain hope that the heaven from which he came is our ultimate homeland and our final rest.

To the sinner he brings forgiveness!

To the weary he brings new life!

To those worn down by this world, he restores lost innocence!

To the fearful he brings his unquenchable light!

It’s awfully dark out there, and its often dark way down deep in here…in hearts that fear a world which threatens cold deadly pain.

But this night the long history of deadly darkness is flooded with his goodness, and the path of light kindled ever anew by the mystery of Bethlehem, reveals the inner brightness radiating from a Child. 

That is why, as Augustine once preached there is no place for sorrow on this night, and as Isaiah commands:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!