Appleton, WI

Dec 26: In Joy & Hope with Fr. Bill

I would like to share my Christmas Homily with you. Hopefully, there is something in these words which will minister to you on these Holy Days of Christmas.
If you are like me, and, in fact, like many people across our nation and world, these last nine months have presented particular challenges like none other. The Washington Post asked readers to sum up the year 2020 in one word or phrase, offering their reasoning. I would like to start here because I think it would be so disconnected not to bring the hope of the Christmas story to the reality that has overwhelmed us. What has 2020 been like?
Here are the top three descriptors that the editors of The Post came across again and again from their readers.
  1. Exhausting…All of our challenges have been drawn-out, slow-motion car wrecks. From COVID, to the election, to unemployment, to no sports, to some sports and no fans, it just keeps dragging on. I feel trapped in a corner, and all I can do is try to block the next thing that is thrown at me.
  2. Lost…We’ve lost our way as a country. The year was lost for students, families, weddings, funerals, holidays, positive human interaction. Lives were lost unnecessarily to disease. It feels like being lost in the wilderness with no compass.
  3. Chaotic…Coronavirus, aftermath of general election, inability to acquire provisions like toilet paper, racial injustice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dying…families being torn apart. I do not recognize this country anymore.
Just to fill out the list, here are a few more single words to describe 2020: surreal, a television show that never knows when to end, fallow…a time of temporary stillness…limbo, heartbreaking, nightmare, broken dreams, stifling, dumpster fire, a year of missing, you are on mute…unmute…can you hear me?
I think there is something here that may resonate with everyone here. So I have identified the reality that we bring to the Lord at this celebration of Christmas. Now let me offer some thoughts that take us closer to the gift which is Christmas.
This is a true story.
This is a real-life conversation shared by Ana:
My eight-year-old son in the car today: “Do you want me to throw the confetti in my pocket?”
Me: “Not in the car! Why do you have confetti in your pocket?”
Eight-year-old: “It’s my emergency confetti. I carry it everywhere in case there is Good News!”
We might ask ourselves, “What is the Good News of Christmas?”
It is this…
  • God in Jesus, the Son of God, wanted so much to come so close to us…to never leave us alone…to cry with us when we cry and to laugh with us when we laugh.  The Mystery of Incarnation is that God in Jesus is with us, for us and in us.
  • The gift the Lord wants to give to us just simply needs to be received. Have you opened your heart to Jesus with a prayer along these lines? Jesus, I want to experience more deeply your presence in my life. In the midst of the chaos, when I feel like I am at my wit’s end, Jesus, I want to trust that you are close to me…that you have made your home in my heart. Sometimes I just go through the motions but I really want to receive the peace and joy that only you can give me. Jesus, come into my life. Jesus, come into my life.
  • We all have our own weaknesses or fears or struggles. Jesus wants only to be our strength.
  • The beginning of Jesus’ life among us was not a piece of cake either. There was fear accompanying his birth – a palpable meanspiritedness as doors were closed to Mary and Joseph – a danger from political forces that wanted to destroy Jesus – through it all, the Holy Family hung on mightily to their trust in the Lord God. “Let it be done to me as you say!”
  • No matter the darkness of the night, Jesus is our Radiant Dawn.  In the stillness, Jesus is close. Let us not be afraid of stillness and silence.  Jesus wants to get our attention.  Let us make time and space in our lives when we give Jesus our undivided attention.
With Father Austin Fleming, whose blog The Concord Pastor you may want to check out, let us pray:
Lord, let your love come upon me, let your Spirit fill me, cover me, overshadow me, envelop me, overwhelm me, engulf me, anoint me, caress me, hold me, melt me, initiate me, infuse me, bathe me, and surround me. Let your love grip me, engage me, embrace me, feed me, and touch me…Lord, let your love come upon me. Send me your Spirit from above and below, on my left and my right, from behind and before me, from within and without…Send me your Spirit, Lord, and let your love come upon me…
Let all say Amen!