Monday, December 23, 2019

A Christmas Homily: You Are Wanted, Loved, and Chosen

Dear Friends, although I don't preach from a text, this is the general idea of the homily I will have for Christmas this year. I hope it is helpful to someone. I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

There's a video that makes its way around social media fairly regularly. It's filmed on somebody's phone and takes place in the living room of a family home on Christmas Day, maybe last year. Seated on the floor amid a rather large family gathering, is a young boy (eleven, I believe) who is handed a present to open. The gift is a framed photograph. He's then asked to read the card aloud. The words he reads are something like this: "Dear Carter, we are all so happy that you are in our family photo this Christmas. We would like you to be in our family photo every year. Carter, would you like to be a . . . ." Before the young boy can finish reading, he bursts into tears. The implication is that this family is asking him if he'd like to be adopted into their family for good. 

I find the video moving on so many levels. What really strikes me, however, is that in that moment, you realize how being chosen--being adopted--impacts this young boy's life. His tears express something overwhelmingly human. All of a sudden, you realize that this young boy's hopes and fears are all coming to the surface. You get the sense that deep down, he may have felt like he would never belong, never be really part of a family. Perhaps he had always hoped that someday he'd feel like he really belonged. And now, he finally belongs to someone. He isn't an outsider any longer. His tears reveal that he is no longer alone. He is loved. He is wanted. He is desired and chosen. When he opened that gift, he had no idea how much his life was about to change. He was now part of a family.

Tonight, we come to the manger. Like the shepherds, who dwelled in the darkness of the fields, all of us dwell in some level of darkness. Each of us has these fundamental fears. We are afraid that we do not belong. We can feel left out of God's plan. We can feel like we are on the outside. We can feel alone, afraid, different. Our sufferings, our sins, our pasts, our fears can all weigh us down. Maybe sometime we are not even aware of it. Maybe the party is going on around us and we can lull ourselves into a sense of security. But tonight we are suddenly awakened.

Into the darkness of life, angels appear tonight. They announce to us, "Do not be afraid." They proclaim to us "Good News of Great Joy." Like that moment when the little boy was handed that present, our life is about to change. 

We come to the manger tonight. The Child in that manger is a gift to us. He is a gift that reveals to us something utterly extraordinary. This Child is God. Yes, God has come down from heaven to be part of our family. But more importantly, when we receive this gift, it is revealed to us that God has chosen us to be part of His family. We are not alone. We are no longer relegated to the darkness of our fears, sorrows, and sins. God has chosen us, adopted us into His family.

That young boy, Carter, burst into tears when he realized that he had been adopted into a loving family. Tonight, we are here because in the manger there is a gift awaiting us. He is Christ and Lord. He is given to us so that we can know that we are not alone. You are not alone. Deep down, whether you know it or not, you hope that you belong to someone forever. You hope that you are chosen. You hope that you are loved intimately and infinitely. Deep down, you have fears. You are afraid of being ultimately alone. You are afraid of being unlovable, unforgivable, unredeemable. 

All of us--deep down--have these hopes and these fears. Well, the hopes and fears of all the years are met in Bethlehem tonight. This little baby--this beautiful peaceful baby--is the Father's Gift to You. He is the Word Made Flesh. His Word tonight is that you are loved, forgiven, and redeemed. His word to you tonight is that you belong to the Father. 

I hope that this Christmas, all of us who sit in any sort of darkness might come to the manger and find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes. I hope that each of us can hear the Father speaking to us through this gift. The Infant Jesus tonight is the best news that any of us will ever receive. This gift is God telling us, "You are not alone. You are not unloved. You do not need to be afraid any longer. I love you and I want you always to be part of my family."

The angels were right. This indeed is good news of great joy. And this news is for you.

Merry Christmas.

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