What If There Were No Christmas?
Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Scriptural Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6; Hebrews 1:1-6
My dear encountered couples:
When you go to Church this Christmas, what did you see on the way? You saw streets, houses, and store windows, glittering with lights and Christmas decorations. And maybe Santa on somebody’s roof in his sleigh being pulled by reindeers - Rudolph lighting the way. You passed other churches, maybe you listened to White Christmas on your car radio, did you see any people carrying gifts?
And now what do you see? An altar filled with poinsettia plants, a tree all aglow, and a stable - with the baby Jesus in his crib; Mary, Joseph and the shepherds all around him. Let us not miss the animals who are helping to keep him warm. Old, familiar, and loved hymns have been filling the church since we entered and bringing back cherished memories and feelings of Christmases past. What if there were none of this?
What if there were no decorations, no hymns or organ music, no crib scene, no gifts, what if even the church disappeared? What if when we got home there was no sign of Santa anywhere around the house? No Christmas cards standing to greet us when we come in, no stockings hanging from the mantle, no tree, no presents, and worst of all - nothing that goes into the making of a Christmas dinner to be found either in the refrigerator or on the stove? What if there were no Christmas? Just another of the business-as-usual Tuesday workdays, and let us not forget, a school day? Perish the thought! But that’s how our lives would be today if it were not for Jesus Christ.
Without Jesus Christ the Bible would have in it only what we refer to as the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures. It would end with the Book of the prophet Malachi. There would be no gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. No letters written by St. Paul and Peter. There would be no shepherds hearing glad tidings or kings bearing gifts. Christmas would just not be.
Do we appreciate what we’ve got? Are we really aware of what has happened? We have come to take f or granted people going to the moon and eventually to planets throughout the galaxy. Such dreams and imaginings by comic strip artists have become realities. Many people even believe that beings from other planets have already come here in space ships. And may even be here, somewhere on earth, right at this moment. Wonders do happen. The greatest wonder, though, is what we are celebrating today.
Think of it. The God who created the world left his heaven and came to live with us. He not only inhabited a body or took on the form of a body, as we might imagine aliens from other planets might do, the Son of God actually became a human being. And lived with us for thirty-three years, trying to prove to us that God loves us. And the most convincing way he thought he could do that was by dying for us.
Had anyone ever dared dream of a God doing such a thing? People’s lives have been sacrificed for their gods, yes, but God dying for people? Maybe that’s why there are still so many in the world who do not believe it. It is not something anyone would expect. But that is what happened.
“In the beginning was the Word,” writes John in his gospel. What he is calling the “Word” is the Son of God. “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was in God’s presence, and the Word was God. . . Through him all things came into being, and apart from him nothing came to be. . .The Word became flesh and made his living among us.”
St. Matthew continues the story: “There were shepherds in the locality” of Bethlehem. They were “living in the fields and keeping night watch by turns over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them, as the glory of the Lord shone around them.. .You have nothing to fear!” said the angel. “This day in David’s city a savior has been born to you, the Messiah and Lord. This will be a sign to you: In a manger you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes... “They then went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby,” as they had been told, “lying in the manger.”
From that day on the world began to change. Bells began to ring, lights began to shine, and music filled the air everywhere. And in homes wreaths and trees and chimneys began to be decorated every year in celebration of the coming of our God. Let us have no doubt, my children, Christmas will be with us until the end of time. “Silent Night,” the strains of “0 Little Town of Bethlehem,” and “0 Come All Ye Faithful,” will always be around to warm our hearts. What happened nearly 2000 years ago is real. And as a part of our celebrating we exchange gifts. But let us not forget a gift for whose birthday it is. Let us not forget a gift for Jesus.
God is giving you his Son. Jesus is giving you his life. What are you giving? You did bring Jesus something, didn’t you? Or maybe it slipped your mind in the midst of all this getting ready for Christmas and getting to church on time. Don’t get upset, there is still time. The stores may be closed, but that’s no problem. The gift that would please Jesus most can’t be bought in stores anyhow. What he wants is your heart. The love in your heart, and the promise to live your life for him in the way he has asked you to, is all Jesus wants. No better gift can any of us find anywhere.
But each of us must decide freely, on our own, if and what we are going to give Jesus. He doesn’t want any forced gift, or a gift without love. Jesus only enjoys receiving what we really want to give him from the depths of our hearts. We might need to be reminded of this before we decide. The gift of ourselves is more than a momentary gesture. It requires repeated renewal and daily commitment to live the way of Christ EVERY DAY!
What if there were no Christmas, what if there were no Jesus Christ? What if there were no God who loves us? But there is, and he does! So, don’t get frightened. This is all real. Long ago in the city of Bethlehem, a Savior was born to us. It is Jesus Christ the Lord. And he is still with us. Look at the person nearest to you and you’ll see him. MERRY CHRISTMAS!