Note: This homily was given at the Vigil Mass of Christmas. I encourage you to read the readings of the Mass prior to reading for the homily, so that it makes more sense.
Merry Christmas! Thank you for being here to celebrate Christmas with us!
You may be wondering why I read you a huge list of names just now. If I were you, I’d be thinking: “it’s Christmas! What in the world do all these strange names have to do with that? When there is the short option that gets right to the good part, why did he read all these names?”
This is Jesus’s family tree. Jesus, the Son of God, didn’t just appear out of thin air. Jesus had a mother and a father. Jesus had grandparents, great-grandparents, and ancestors who would otherwise be forgotten in the dustbin of history if someone in the family hadn’t bothered to remember them. Jesus Christ had flesh and blood, just like you and me.
These names tell us more than that, though. The people in this list are far from perfect. If you can think of a sin, someone in this list has committed it. Every single one of God’s commandments was broken, often in combinations and with a frequency that would make you think they were getting combination multipliers. What’s worse is that the people in this list are often the kings and leaders of the Israelite people! Even David, the great king of Israel, was guilty of both adultery and murder! I won’t go through all the details, it is Christmas after all, but Jesus’s family tree is full of sinners. Yet, this is the family he chose. God, unlike the rest of us, got to choose which family he entered. He picked a family with a history: some of it good, much of it bad. God picked that broken family, and He entered it. He entered that family not just to save them, but to save the whole world. This long list of names reminds us of our history. God promised Abraham that he would save the world through the Jewish people, and so their history is the history of our salvation. When we learn our history, we see exactly what humanity is capable of doing. But we can hope, too, because we also see that God knows all of this, and he still came to save us.
This long list of names is not pointless at all. We read it because it gives us hope.
We have hope because God became one of us and showed us how to live life.
We have hope because Jesus Christ opened the gates of Heaven and saved us from sin.
We have hope because Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Church, which provides us with the sacraments to save our souls and enter Heaven.
We have hope because no matter how difficult or challenging our lives are, we know that Jesus Christ, who was fully human, experienced it too: God knows how we feel.
We have hope because no matter how awful our leaders are: in the church, in politics, in whatever, we know that God is stronger than them, and he can still save us.
God saw us struggling to find him. He saw us struggling to follow him. God saw our need for a savior. For our sake, as Isaiah said, God could not stay silent. God would not rest until we were vindicated. God will not rest until our victory over sin shines like a burning torch. He loves us too much. Even though we turn away from God, he still loves us more than we can imagine. God did not create us and this universe and all that is in it so that we would fall into sin. God did not create us to die: God created us to live! God created us to live with him. God created us to live forever, in Heaven, with Him. God does not want to be with us for just one hour a week, or for a couple of special holidays in a year: He wants us to be with him now and forever! So, God formulated a plan to save us. This plan was so incredible, so unthinkable, that nobody could have expected it. Even with a thousand years of prophecies, the Jewish people didn’t expect it to happen like it did.
God’s plan to save us was this: he became a human being, one of us. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, and became man. Today, we celebrate his birth. Rejoice! Jesus Christ was born today!
December 24, 2018
Christmas – Vigil Mass
Isaiah 62:1-5; Psalm 89; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Matthew 1:1-25