4th Sunday of Advent - homily
Last week I celebrated Mass at the nursing home on Arcola (Avenue) which I do once a month; it is one of the highlights of my month. I take my Mass kit and vestments down there and celebrate Mass with about twenty of the residents. They are elderly and ill but have a great spirit about them. So, the other day, I was getting ready for Mass. I put on this purple (technically, it’s violet) vestment. As I was doing that, I began to hear some murmurs. Tension seemed to be filling the room. I immediately made a disclaimer, saying, “folks, don’t worry. This is not for the Minnesota Vikings (who wear purple and play the Redskins tonight)!”
Now, I have to something to say that you may not want to hear. I do not pray for the Redskins to win. People come up to me after they lose and blame me for not praying hard enough and congratulate me on a job well done when they win. I don’t pray for them to win but I do pray for no injuries. You see how fruitful that has been this year! I hope the boys win tonight. If they do, three words: WE WANT DALLAS!
Maybe it’s just me and maybe this is a bit dramatic, but when I hear today’s Gospel, I think, ‘what a mess!’ We just heard Matthew’s narrative of the birth of Jesus and it’s not what we would expect to hear about how the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and Prince of Peace came into the world. There’s talk of divorce among Jesus’ parents. Mary is pregnant from someone other than Joseph. And, an angel has to get involved so that Joseph won’t split.
Of course, Mary and Jesus live God’s Plan perfectly and Joseph is obedient to God through the angel, but this doesn’t sound like the perfect plan. It’s a mess which is the human condition. This would continue throughout Jesus’ life. When he was twelve, he was separated from his parents for three days. As an adult, he was widely rejected by his people and even one of his Apostles. His death was a mess, too; he literally became a bloody mess. Even the four Gospel accounts are not lined up perfectly and have several inconsistencies.
So, what is going on here? First, if everything in and around Jesus’ life was perfect, if everything has worked out perfectly, then we would raise some red flags. We wouldn’t be able to identify with that and would doubt it. The imperfections actually show us that it probably did happen the way it has been reported. We can identify with the imperfections. Second, God enters into the mess. He is not above it; He actually comes right in the midst of it. In his birth, He comes into the mess. In his death, he becomes the mess; he becomes sin which is our mess.
We all come here tonight thinking of the mess in our homes. There is much food to cook, many presents to wrap, and many family gatherings to attend. Christmas can be a real mess! On a deeper level, we have the mess of family problems, conflicts, and tensions. As we consider and deal with all of this mess during Christmas, let us think that God wants to enter into our mess. He wants to be in the midst of it so that he can clean up our mess.
In a very real way, we have the same situation in the Eucharist that those who witnessed the Birth of Christ had two thousand years ago. Jesus will be “born” on this altar in a few minutes. He will come into our mess, and get right in the middle of it. As we receive our Lord today, let us receive his peace amid our mess and stress. May each one of us know his peace, joy, love, and hope throughout the Christmas season.