Jesus enters our basements: A homily for Christmas

jesus-mary-josephThe other day I was invited to a Christmas party. I had been to this house several times before, so I thought I knew where I was going. I went to the neighborhood, pulled up to a house that looked exactly like the house I remembered, and parked among the many other cars there. I knocked on the door–nothing. Doorbell–nothing. So I waltzed right on in. The house looked pretty much right on, but no one was on the ground floor. But I could hear them all in the basement, so I started on down.  Upon getting to the bottom, I announced, “Merry Christmas everyone.” And I did not see a single familiar face.  Silence followed for a few seconds, at which time I said, “I’m beginning to think I’m in the wrong place.” To which someone said, “Yes you are.” Lots and lots of laughter ensued. It is not every day a priest walks into your house unexpected. Now these folks were nice as could be and I even stayed for a beer and some food!  Had a great time.

I got to thinking. That’s like our Lord.  Today we celebrate a moment that changed everything.  To quote Msgr. Pope, Christmas is less candy canes and decorations and more D-Day.  The incarnation of Jesus changed it all. He came to earth as man to accomplish what only God could accomplish and to pay a debt that only man owed.  That’s St. Anselm. What he did in Bethlehem, by God, that changed it all–not just the lot of those folks then and there at Bethlehem, but forever and all around the world.

What I mean is this. It’s one thing to celebrate what we celebrate at Christmas, that God became man 2000 some years ago in Bethlehem. That is true and worthy of grand celebration and reflection. After all, as the preface for Mass says today, because of God’s incarnation we are made eternal. But it is also true that God is born to us here and now, today. This is true in a special way with the Mass. As surely as Jesus lay in the manger, he will also lie on this altar and on altars like it around the world and through the centuries.

And he is born into our lives. He enters our houses, unannounced, just like I entered that house unannounced and uninvited. And here’s the thing: even though sometimes we try to lock him out like the innkeeper, he will enter. He will be born.  And it should change everything that God is in the room with us, that God is born among us, that God is with us. We ought to live differently knowing that God is here.  He is Emmanuel, God with us.

Two questions I will leave you with.  It is true that God is Emmanuel, God-with-us.  God is with us. Are we with him?

And where do you need God to be born the most in your life? Perhaps a troubled relationship. Perhaps a bad feeling you are carrying towards someone that consumes you. Perhaps you need God to be born in a dark place of your life, or into that secret life you have that you think no one knows about. Perhaps you need God to be born into your marriage, your life with some friend. We all need Jesus to be born in our lives. We celebrate that today, he is born in all those places. Let us look for him there and draw power from him there.

He is born, and in response to that we echo the angels and the shepherds in proclaiming, Glory to God in the highest!