I do want to give you an update on something I told you a couple of weeks ago. Regular parishioners know that I’m kind of militant when it comes to the secularization of our Christian traditions like replacing the greeting “Merry Christmas” with lame substitutes like the politically correct “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings”. I got more positive comments on that homily than anything I’ve ever said. I’m glad that so many of you agree that you’re not willing to have your traditions stripped away by a handful of anti-Christian whiners.
The other day I was walking through Dillard’s and I heard someone yell “Merry Christmas, Deacon Mike!” It was one of our parishioners. I smiled the rest of the day.
As I look out at all of you sitting here on this night, I can’t help wondering what you’re thinking about. Some of you are here because Christmas is a holy day of obligation. Some of you are here out of habit. Some of you are here to keep peace in the family. But we’re all here to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. So, what can I say, in less than half an hour, that will somehow add to your celebration of Christmas? It’s a humbling responsibility.
I’ve told some of you this before, but I rely on the Holy Spirit to give me something to preach about. I pray for the right words and He always responds. It’s easy to miss the message if I try to be too clever, or too funny, or if I try to put too much of myself into His message. Of course, this being Christmas Eve, I wanted something special to talk to you about, but that tiny word “I” kept getting in the way. This isn’t about me. It’s about you and that little baby lying over there in the manger. The baby that grows up to be that man nailed on the cross.
God works in mysterious ways and He gave my answer while I was eating breakfast Thursday morning at Waffle House. I love Waffle House. In fact, we’ll probably go there tonight after mass. Anyway, I had just come from communion service so I was wearing my deacon shirt. A customer, a total stranger, came up to me and asked me if I’d pray for the ladies behind the counter. He said that they work very hard and could use some prayers. I said of course I would. But that got me to thinking. As you and I sit here at mass, celebrating the birth of our Savior, a lot of people are working. Everybody doesn’t get off on Christmas. Waffle House will be open all night. In fact they tell me that Christmas Day is their busiest day of the year. People who work at convenience stores, doctors and nurses, radio and TV people, a lot of them have to work to provide essential services for the rest of us. Policemen are patrolling our neighborhoods and fire fighters and paramedics are at the station, ready to respond to an emergency. They definitely deserve our thanks, and our prayers. So, if you happen to come across someone today or tomorrow who is working, be sure to thank them and bless them for being there for you.
Special thanks and prayers have to go out to the men and women who aren’t just working, but who are far from home serving in the military. It’s early morning in the middle east so those men and women have already begun their work day. Having a National Guard base, a national cemetery, and a VA hospital right in our backyard is a constant reminder of their service and sacrifice so that you and I can be here worshiping on this winter night.
But, back to Waffle House. As I was thinking about the people who are working tonight and tomorrow, I also thought about the customers. I’ll bet a lot of lonely people end up at places like the House, or Denney’s, or any of the other places that never close, especially late at night. As we sit in our warm church, surrounded by family and friends, there are a lot of people who have nowhere to go. All they want is a warm smile, some human companionship, and a hot cup of coffee. It kind of reminds me of a certain young couple who were looking for a place to stay so that the wife could have her baby sheltered from the night.
C’mon, deacon. Are you saying that Waffle House is like the manger? Are you comparing the birth of the Lord to eggs and hash browns?
In a way, yes. Tonight while you and I are nestled all snug in our beds with visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, thousands of our fellow human beings will be serving as the inn keeper, giving shelter and companionship to lonely people all over the world. Isn’t that what this night is all about? Jesus could have come on a golden chariot surrounded by angels singing a magnificent song. But He didn’t. He came into the world the same way you and I did, born of a woman. The Son of God, the Word made flesh, came as a tiny baby, born on a pile of straw in a cow barn. He gave up His place in heaven for thirty-three years because He loves you and me. How awesome is that? He suffered the indignity of being born in a stable, working in a carpenter shop, and then dying a cruel death, just for us. Yet, all that awsomeness came to us in the form of a tiny baby and hardly anyone even noticed.
The world was in a mess. We needed help. But instead of sending His adult Son, ready to preach the Gospel, He decided to wait thirty years while the baby grew up and became a man, experiencing all the same things that every human experiences. Why would He do that? If you want me to tell you, you’ll have to come back this weekend for the Feast of the Holy Family.
For now I’ll just say that Christmas is a joyous time, a spiritual time, and a time to get together with family and friends. At least it’s supposed to be. It doesn’t happen that way all the time for everybody. Sometimes work, military obligations, obligations to spouses’ families, sickness, and even death keep us apart. But that shouldn’t dampen our holiday spirit. By showing up in Bethlehem on that Holy night, Jesus showed us that there’s someone we can ALWAYS rely on; someone who never lets us down. He’s there for us no matter what.
Besides, this sentimental Irishman believes that there will be miracles happening tonight, even at places like Waffle House.
I’d like to close with an Irish Christmas blessing:
The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and good will of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you
The love of the Son and God’s peace to you.