Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Radiant with Light
In the Scriptures chosen for the Christmas Masses, we find many references to "light" - "Zion will shine forth like the dawn and like a burning torch"; "the heavens were radiant with light"; "the angels spoke to the shepherds in light"; "the watch raise a cry and burst into song as the dawn breaks"; "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it".

Point 1: All these references draw our attention to the role of Christ in the affairs of people as the Way, the Truth and the Light. Indeed, the ancient Jewish festival that our Christmas festival replaces is the Feast of Hannukah, the Feast of Light, observed by the Jewish community at this time. In our approach to life, we have two options - to go it alone or acknowledge our dependence. To come at life as god, or come at it with God. The religious contribution to people's understanding of life has been the story of people coming at life in partnership with God. The Christian understanding of God, in particular, is the story of our approach to life with God - become-Man in the person of Christ. Christmas is the Feast of Emmanuel - God with us- the celebration of God's presence with His people in all ages.

Point 2: This sense of God's presence with us is what makes Christmas such a special observance. In the Christmas story we find reasons for hope and optimism. It glows with a special kind of light as we celebrate the belief that a divine light has been sparked in the world. The source of that light is a Child and we are drawn, irresistibly, to the light that He radiates. Part of our response springs from a simple sense of joy; and part is a desire to recognise and to honour goodness. The sparkle of Christmas is that it reflects a belief in our ability to achieve good deeds; that, as we become more deeply aware of this sense of God's presence in us, we can transcend our limitations.
In Christ we are offered a choice of compassion rather than aggression; forgiveness instead of getting even; humility instead of arrogance and love rather than hate; concern rather than selfish neglect. The option that Christ presents is to embrace a kinder, more gentle society which, left to ourselves, seems to be beyond our reach.

Point 3: Acceptance of this opportunity has not been without its failures or its contradictions. It has never been easy and to judge its success one must not look so much at those who have steadfastly refused to give it a go; or even at those who have only made a half-hearted or emotional response to the invitation "Come, follow Me"! Rather do we draw assurance from those countless millions whose lives have been formed and motivated through their contact with Christ - the Mary MacKillops, the Mother Teresas, the Vincent de Pauls, and all others who have accepted Christ as the illuminating influence in their lives.

Conclusion: The question we ask ourselves as we celebrate this Feast of God's presence amongst us - are we really children of the light? Or do we scurry out of the darkness at this time of festivity to celebrate something hastily which we do not fully understand, and, then, return to the darkness of doubt, of fear, of cynicism, even despair? How different life is for those who really believe what it is that they are celebrating - God's presence with His people.

Scriptural reference: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it". (John 1: 5)

A Christmas Prayer
Lord, during the next week or so, I will be turning my Christmas tree on and off many times. Let me try to remember what it means each time I do it. In the tree let me see my Christian character, upright and dependable; in the lights, let me see a reminder that in You is life, and the light is the light of people, and the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness will not overcome it. Let the feasting and the happiness remind me of the tidings of great joy which the shepherds heard. And, in the generosity of Christmas, let me reflect on Your generosity in giving me a constant chance of renewal even when I have blotted my copy book badly. Thank You, Lord, for the spirit of Christmas Eve, as generous tomorrow as today. And if, by some chance, I should live through a whole week in that spirit, it is even possible that the Christmas spirit can become an all round year affair!