Christmas Homily from Father Jim Hogan for December 25, 2012

• Isaiah 9: 2 •  Titus 3: 4-8;, 6-7 • John 1: 1-8  [1: 1-4; ] • Christmas C ‘13 • 

Print PDF: Christmas Homily 12.25. 2012

Jim Hogan6I have known grief in my life.  I remember standing by my father’s coffin and sobbing from the bottom of my soul.  Recently my soul mate of 50 plus years left Missoula.  While assisting her transition to the mid-west, grief overwhelmed my soul and drained my tear ducts.  I also have known great joy in my life and more blessings than I can ever tally. Your life experience is the same, maybe even more intense.  Life is complex.  We find it difficult to make sense of it.

The music and details of “Cultural Christmas” fill our hearts and homes with warm memories. “Dreaming of a White Christmas,” we inadvertently turn Christmas into a big deal for children who are totally unable to understand or appreciate the mystery. Yes, folks crowd into Christmas Eve liturgies so nothing interferes with “Christmas.”  But there is at least a momentary awareness that Christmas is about the birth of the historical Jesus.

In recent years my success in trying to clarify the meaning of this feast has been sporadic.  Initially I replaced Christmas cards with phone calls.  Then, rather than a tree with lights and ornaments, I settled for three ceramic figures of Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child.   This year I made a big decision.  I did not even bring those figures out of the box.

It is not comfortable confessing all of this.  It may sound that in these later years of my life I am emulating Scrooge.  I am not!  However I am trying to understand the meaning and implications of Christmas. I know that many of you are making the same sort of effort.  It is more than a cliché, Christmas is about Christ – the Christ Mystery!

The infancy narratives call us to the birth of the historical Jesus.  However the bulk of the Christian Bible calls us beyond those narratives into the Christ Mystery. Listen to the scripture texts. It is only in them that we begin to appreciate Christmas.  “In the beginning was the Word.” “The Word became flesh and lived among us.”  It is Jesus, the one we name “the Christ.”

We humans are the cosmos become conscious.  We know that we know!  We know we are made of cosmic dust birthed in ancient stars.  John is telling us that In Christ, the One beyond our comprehension, the One we name “God” is intimately with us and in us.

“What has come into being through him was life.” Christ is what we are to be. Christ showed us how to live! So when John tells us “the Word became flesh and lived among us,” he is speaking of us. In this one whose birth we celebrate today, God became flesh, dwells in us.

The early Christian communities lacked our appreciation of the creative process we call “evolution.”  But they knew that Christ made a quantum leap forward on the evolutionary ladder. Jesus was not some sort of ransom or sacrifice to be offered for sin.  In him the inner pressure of love at the heart of the cosmos leapt forward.  Evolution birthed a new level of being human.  A new awareness of God merged with a new sense of ethical responsibility.

The cosmos is a mysterious reality.  Scientists cannot observe invisible and weightless realities like space, time, black holes and dark matter. Yet they tell us they must exist for things do not make sense without them.

NativityChristmas is sort of like that.  Yes, human life is complex.  Mysterious realities like grief or joy, loneliness or the ecstasy of love confuse us.  These lead us deeper into the ultimate mystery we cannot observe. Christ gives new meaning to all of it.  Our grief and joy, our loneliness and yearning are manifestations of love.  Love draws us into the future. “God is love.”

We live because of God’s love.  We live in God, and God lives in us.  That is “the Christ Mystery!”  Merry Christmas!

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6 Responses to Christmas Homily from Father Jim Hogan for December 25, 2012

  1. Beautiful, truly beautiful.
    Would that we had a multitude of priests like Jim.


  2. Steve Oreskovich says:

    Thanks Jim for pushing our understanding of the wonderful mystery of the INCARNATION ever deeper, wider and more meaningful. God is in the world or nowhere and maybe even secretly at the Mall where the search for unconditional love and Divine acceptance can only be temporarily distracted. If only we could come to believe that it is each of us there, in the manager , with “the little lord Jesus asleep in the hay”…different only in degree of the share of God “made manifest” in each of us.

  3. Thoughtful and from the heart, as usual. Your feelings
    and expressions connect with the desire of me and many
    to recognize the mystery of Emmanuel in the midst of
    the “cultural Christmas” flurry. Thank you, Jim, and all
    who share with you the hopes of the Promised One.
    Merry Christmas. . . . Wally

  4. Hardly Scrooge Fr. Jim! I have not done any Christmas decorating this year either – other than a small ceramic tree that has been in my family since I was a child. Yet this year I feel the pulsing of Christmas in a life changing way – more than any year since I was very young. So I have been unwilling to push myself into fatigue and what has “given” is the decorating! I love your sense that in the birth of Jesus “A new awareness of God merged with a new sense of ethical responsibility”. In my own life I cannot imagine moving closer and closer to the awareness of God without a commensurate sense of this ethical responsibility. I give great thanks for you in my world – you have been one of the great blessings of this year!

  5. Shu Pius says:

    Thanks for the Homilies, Fr. Jim! Have a blessed Christmas.

  6. Thank you for this heartfelt and searching reflection Jim. It resonates inside me with recognition. I felt a measure of both relief and gratitude reading it. I find I have to keep returning to first Christmas story to find the mystery and wonder. Ken Schested has a wonderful poem called, ‘Annunciation’ that explore this theme. An excerpt:
    “Heaven’s comedy breaks with a grin:
    into the womb of a teenage peasant,
    to shepherds standing in dung-filled fields,
    to goyim — refuse of creation — of distant lands
    who decipher God’s signature in the very stars.”

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