The King of Kings and Lord of Hosts and the Power that beats at the heart of the universe is gently -- so very gently -- knocking on the door of your heart.
Editor's note: Father Paul Soper, cabinet secretary for Evangelization and Discipleship and director of the Pastoral Planning Office, will deliver this homily on Christmas Eve at St. Rose of Lima Church in Rochester.
When I was a teenager, one of my sisters, who is five years older than I am, went away to college. Her first semester exams went late, and she didn't make it home until the day before Christmas Eve. Although I had already started my Christmas vacation, I had a strong sense that my life, my family, my home, my Christmas was not complete until she arrived home. Then she came home, and there was joy.
I have that same joy tonight, because we are all together. We are Christians. This is our home. There may be many reasons why people have been away from Church, or apart from a day to day relationship with Jesus. Some people are angry, some are hurt, some are indifferent, some simply lost the habit. For tonight, we put those reasons aside. For tonight, our family is whole again. And so I am glad -- I am very, very glad -- that we are all together.
And we know why we are here.
The world may be content with hustle and bustle, with silver bells and Christmas trees, with flying reindeer and stockings hung by the chimney with care -- these are all good things -- but they are good in the way that a good story is good. Good stories are good, but they are stories nonetheless.
My favorite story is "The Lord of the Rings" -- it is filled with light and darkness and elves and dwarves and halflings and giants and ancient kings and rings of power and heroes and scoundrels and talking trees and magic swords and battles and songs and extraordinary courage from the most unlikely of sources -- but for all of that, it is a story. I read and reread it with delight, but it is a story. It is a story that touches the human heart in a hundred true ways, but a story nonetheless -- a fable, a myth.
But there is another story that is different, because it is real. God created the world, but sin entered in through our consent, and much that was beautiful was broken by sin. We all know this is true -- we feel the wrongness of so many things -- we know the world was not meant to be thus. But God loved us so much that, when the time was right, he sent his son to save us. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem. Angels came, as did shepherds and wise men from the East. He grew in strength and wisdom, and the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him. He taught us. He healed us. He formed us as a community of disciples. He died on the cross in Jerusalem, and his death broke the power of sin and death and saved us. He rose from the dead on the third day. He ascended into heaven, so that we could go to heaven with him. He sent the Holy Spirit to form the Church and to teach us how to live; how to love him, how to love each other.
And that story, especially the part of it we celebrate tonight, is also filled with great heroes, unlikely heroes -- a poor girl and her poor husband, angels and shepherds, inn keepers and mysterious wise men, and a little, helpless child who is the king of everything that ever was and ever will be.
And that story is true.
In "The Lord of the Rings," Frodo destroyed the One Ring in the cracks of Orodruin -- of Mount Doom. An excellent story. I smile and weep when I read it. But Jesus destroyed the power of death on the cross, and that is so much more than a story, because that story has a direct and immediate and cosmic impact on my life. Because that story is true, my sins are forgiven. Because that story is true, I can go to heaven. What could be more important than that? What could be more important than the fact that death has no more power over me? That I am truly free? That I will live forever, in resplendent joy and peace?
Jesus is the most real person who has ever been. And he is Good. He is the most wonderful, most terrifying, most demanding, most gentle good that could ever be. He is the world's good and he is your good.
So, I would ask you this question: What do you believe?
If you believe that Christmas is a fable -- a nice story among other nice stories, then enjoy the lights and the singing and the cheer, and then go back to living your lives exactly as before.
But if, like me, you believe that the story is true, then this is the time to act.
The King of Kings and Lord of Hosts and the Power that beats at the heart of the universe is gently -- so very gently -- knocking on the door of your heart. He wants to come in. He longs for you. He laid aside his glory and came among us in lowliness because he wants you -- specifically you -- to let him into your heart.
So let him in. Please.
How? There are so many ways, but the simplest way is best. Just say it. "Jesus, please, I don't even know what this means, but I open my heart to you. Enter my life, and remake me." Then, trust. He will do the hard work.
Is he already the Lord of your life? Then tell someone about it. Be like the angels, who, unable to hold the good news in, rushed to those startled shepherds and burst forth in glory as they told them of the birth of the Child. If you are baptized then your call -- your destiny -- is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and disciples make disciples. Go tell it on the mountains, that Jesus Christ is born. Tell people how he has been born into your life.
Recent articles in the Faith & Family section
Signs of the timesJaymie Stuart Wolfe
What's happening these days in pastoral planning?Sister Pat Boyle, CSJ
Conservatives: What they are and what they aren'tKevin and Marilyn Ryan
Holding the pope's hand in gratitude for being CatholicHosffman Ospino
Hindu-Catholic national dialogue on love of neighborFather Thomas Ryan