Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas
Homily for December 24, 2017    Fourth Sunday of Advent - B 
by Dcn. Bob Bonomi

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the land,    People were worried, wringing their hands.
“What should I buy? What should I get?”
    Will my expectations of Christmas be met?
Mom in her apron, in a very foul mood,
    Worried about cooking: would there be enough food?
Dad, too, was cranky, showing ill-will,
    Worried about paying those big Christmas bills.
And the children were impatient – the girls and the boys,
    As they thought only of presents: the gifts and the toys.
But then what to my blood-shot eyes should appear,
    But an angel of God, with good tidings to share.
“A child will be born – he’s on his way,
    That if you will let Him, will change all your ways.”
“The gifts He brings are Joy, Mercy and Love,
    Sent by the King of Kings from above.”

Are you ready for Christmas?  Do you feel that Christmas came a little quick this year?  If so, maybe it’s because we were a bit short-changed this Advent.  A quick trivia question:  how long is Advent?  It’s a trick question, since it depends on the year.  While there are always 4 Sundays in Advent, this year, because Christmas falls on a Monday, we lose all of the week days that normally follow the 4th Sunday of Advent.  So we had only 22 days to prepare.  No wonder we might feel a bit rushed – do you think maybe Mary felt a little rushed when Jesus decided to be born while she and Joseph were traveling?

Today’s Gospel is about CHOICES – making decisions.  We heard this same passage a couple of days ago – the announcement by the Angel Gabriel to Mary that she was to have a child.  We ponder it every time we say the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.

It sounds like it was a command, but was it?  Did Mary have a choice?  Of course she did!  God has given all of us the gift of free will and Mary was no exception.  She could have said, “NO”.   But she didn’t, and her “FIAT” – her “YES” – started in motion a series of events which would forever change the world.  And although Gabriel told her about Jesus’ future kingship and his greatness, I’m sure that she had no idea of what her choice was going to mean to her or to the world.

When was the last time you made a decision that changed your life forever?  God presents us with choices both big and small every day.  We’ve all had to make them, and we do – sometimes we make good choices and sometimes, not so good.  Most of the time we do not know the impact of our decision until much later.  And even if we make the “right” choice, there can be consequences that, at least initially, we wish that we didn’t have to deal with.  But first and foremost, do we pray over our choices to seek and understand God’s will?  Are we willing, like Mary, to say, “May it be done to me according to your word.”?

Look at King David in the first reading.  David was a warrior; in his battles against the Philistines and others God was certainly with him and blessed him with his victories.  His kingdom was at peace and he himself was living a pretty good life.  And yet, his desire to build a house for the Lord was not what God had in mind.  God wanted David to understand that there was a bigger picture than what David could see, extending through future generations, and that there would be others who would also need to choose to follow God. 

God didn’t want David to build a house of wood to enclosed God; God Himself would build a house of faith to enclose David and his descendants.   David’s kingdom was only a prelude to something far greater to come.  As St. Paul said, it’s an ancient mystery to be revealed through Jesus Christ.  We must show through our actions – our choices – that we want to be part of God’s Kingdom.

That must be the goal of ALL of our choices today.  Choosing to follow God’s will is never easy.  One of the things that Advent is meant to do is to prepare us for making those choices in the future by reflecting on and seeking God’s will in the choices we have to make. 

As we prepare to celebrate the historical birth of Jesus, we must also prepare ourselves to be part of that greater Kingdom of Faith that Jesus proclaimed with his life.  Have you used Advent for that, or have you spent you Advent becoming frazzled in the preparations for the party instead of the guest of honor?

We will receive many gifts from God this Christmas, the most precious being the gift of Jesus still present today in the Eucharist.  And among the other gifts that we will receive this Christmas and throughout our lives are those that God has sent us through his Son – the gifts of Joy, Mercy and Love.

And so the Angel exclaimed, as he faded from view:
“Merry Christmas to all – to me and to You!”

I’ll see you all for Christmas.