December 25, 2019
Merry Christmas! My name is Leif Kehrwald, Parish Pastoral Administrator here at St. Charles. Welcome to those of you who are visiting. We are very pleased you are here today.
I have two questions:
First, have you ever been afraid of the dark?
Whether as a child or as an adult, have you ever felt nervous, or a bit creeped out, or downright terrified of the dark? Go ahead, raise your hand if you want to admit to it today.
We heard in our first reading from the prophet Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
Those who are afraid of the dark, have nothing to fear!
Was he talking about us? Well, most of you raised your hand, yes? Isaiah wrote his words a long, long time ago. He didn’t know any of us, but he did know this: there are times when darkness frightens us. There are times when darkness throws us into confusion, and we don’t know where to turn. There are times when we lose our way because of the darkness in our hearts.
Each of us, in one way or another, whether child or adult, has walked in darkness.
But, as Isaiah proclaims, there is light. “Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom, a light has shone! . . . For a child is born to us! . . . And on him rests our release from darkness!
And they will call him:
With these words, Isaiah proclaims that a radical transformation is about to take place:
Darkness to light
Sadness to joy
Oppression to freedom
War to peace.
And today, we can take comfort in the birth of the Christ child, Jesus, who sheds light on our fears, our gloom, and our lost-ness.
My second question is this: Have you ever heard the angels sing?
You know the song, right? Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. And you heard me proclaim the Gospel:
and suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest.”
Have you ever heard anything like that? Or, have you ever felt the angels singing in your heart? I know I have.
My first grandchild was born eight months ago, and I got to hold her within hours of her emergence into this world. The angels were singing so loudly, I thought my heart would burst.
A long, long time ago, forty plus years ago, over a hissing, crackling phone line between Spokane, WA and Florence, Italy, at a rate of $2/minute, Rene and I became engaged, and the song of the angels brought us both to tears.
Each year on my birthday, my mom calls me, and we visit, and she congratulates me on another year. But I always, always thank her for the hard work (labor) she did on December 8, 1957. She often responds with something like, “Well that was only the beginning of my hard work!” We laugh together . . . as we both hear the angels singing.
I was fifteen when I experienced my first Christmas homecoming, and it was sweet. I had been away at boarding school since late August. First time I had ever really left home. I had never even gone to summer camp. I loved my new school, but I was truly homesick. When exams ended, and Christmas break finally arrived, I was so excited to make my way home. Turned out to be a harrowing journey from Northern California to my remote Wyoming town. The flight into Denver had to be re-routed to Omaha. After sleeping in the airport overnight, the best they could do for me, was get me to Casper. So my parents navigated snowy roads for three-plus hours to come get me. I could literally hear the angels singing as I embraced them in that strange little air terminal. I even hugged my brother.
What’s the point? It’s simply this. These are the Emmanuel moments of our lives. God with us. These are the moments when the incarnation of God, through Jesus, born today, in humble and ordinary circumstances, breaks through into our own lives, and sheds light on our darkness.
You see, more than anything, God wants to be friends with you, with me. God wants to be in relationship so bad that God created us for fellowship and union with God and with one another.
So, sometime today or tomorrow, or during this Christmas break, share with at least one person a time when you heard or felt the angels singing. That’s Emmanuel – God with us.
The birth of Jesus is God’s most concrete sign of this intense love and desire to be a real part of our lives. May we be filled with the light of that love, God’s love, to dispel the darkness that surrounds. And may we join the angels singing:
O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him,
O Come, let us adore him, Christ the Lord.