My Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,
What is the true meaning of Christmas? Is it found in cookies? Is it found in trees? Is it found in gifts? What is the true meaning of Christmas?
We have just heard in the Gospel the message given by the angels to the shepherds during that Holy Night, a message which the Church now proclaims to us: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:11-12). Nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary, nothing magnificent is given to the shepherds as a sign. All they will see is a child wrapped in swaddling clothes, one who, like all children, needs a mother’s care; a child born in a stable, who therefore lies not in a cradle but in a manger. God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Only in their hearts will the shepherds be able to see that this baby fulfils the promise of the prophet Isaiah, which we heard in the first reading: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder” (Is 9:5). Exactly the same sign has been given to us. We too are invited by the angel of God, through the message of the Gospel, to set out in our hearts to see the child lying in the manger.
The true meaning of Christmas is in cookies, for they remind us of the sweetness of our Lord. Most food is practical- meat and potatoes to keep us going each day, but a cookie is impractical, a superabundant gift of love! That is why we bake cookies at Christmas; we spend precious time and express ourselves to imitate that superabundant love of God in Jesus Christ.
The true meaning of Christmas is in trees, for they remind us of the life giving power of God. All around the evergreen tree, everything is dead or dormant: the noble oak and the beautiful rose are all silent, but the evergreen still grows in the dead of winter. God the Father works through the Spirit of Jesus to bring us life in the midst of death.
The true meaning of Christmas is found in gifts, for they remind us of the supreme gift of God in Jesus Christ. Gifts were given out of the beautiful desire to imitate God. We give gifts to our family and friends, not because they’ve earned it, but because we love them. God gives Himself to us in His Son, Jesus Christ, not because we’ve earned the gift but because He loves us.
The true meaning of Christmas can be found in many different ordinary things around us, we’ve only forgotten the reason that our ancestors began to bake, decorate, and give. The reason our ancestors began all of “this” that we now consider Christmas is one word.
The highest and truest meaning of Christmas, Emmanuel, a Hebrew word that means, “God is with us.”
Emmanuel, God is with us. What does it mean that “God is with us?” It is easy to believe that God is with us when everything goes our way. When we hit the lotto, when it is 70 and sunny, when we get straight A’s but what about the other days? What about the bankrupt, the corrupt, the sinful, the betraying and betrayed days? That is when we most need to know- God is with us.
The prophet Isaiah speaks the Word of God and says: “For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like burning torch.” God says, I know you have been forsaken and desolate but I will make you delighted and espoused to Me, in fact as a young man marries a virgin, I will marry you and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you. Jesus is the sign that God delights in us just as our cookies signify our delight in others. Words fade away, parchment crumbles, but the gift of a life stands forever. Even people, who do not believe that Jesus is Lord, know that He historically existed. He is God’s enduring gift to us.
Let us ask the Lord to grant us the grace of looking upon the crib this night with the simplicity of the shepherds, so as to receive the joy with which they returned home (cf. Lk 2:20). Let us ask him to give us the humility and the faith with which Saint Joseph looked upon the child that Mary had conceived by the Holy Spirit. Let us ask the Lord to let us look upon him with that same love with which Mary saw him. And let us pray that in this way the light that the shepherds saw will shine upon us too, and that what the angels sang that night will be accomplished throughout the world: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.” Let us enshrine, welcome, and delight in Him so that we may know the Father’s delight in us.
May the Infant Jesus bless you all.