Abbot Elias – Homily for Christmas Day 2021

Christmas Day Mass 2021

Last year was the first time in the living memory of our community that we celebrated Christmas with no guests. We can be grateful that at least our doors are open this year. Nonetheless, the heavy times of uncertainty continue. The good tidings and comfort we just heard about from Isaiah can seem distant and faint. As is often the case, the Psalms articulate our state of mind better than we do. At Vigils on Christmas Eve, we prayed Psalm 12:

How long, O Lord, will you forget me?

How long will you hide your face?

How long must I bear grief in my soul,

this sorrow in my heart day and night?

How long shall my enemy prevail?

We don’t want these low points. And yet, there is something solid and even reassuring about them. It’s in the gullies and low places that the water flows. And, if we keep moving, the way ahead is the way up. So, along with the psalmist’s prayer, ours goes beyond questioning and complaining:

Look at me, answer me, Lord my God!

Give light to my eyes lest I fall asleep in death,

lest my enemy say: “I have overcome him;”

lest my foes rejoice to see my fall.

To ask is already to have hope. And notice what the psalmist asks for: to be seen (“look at me”); to be spoken to (“answer me”); and to see (“give light to my eyes”).

Christmas itself follows this pattern. The feast of the Lord’s Nativity is celebrated at the low point of the year, the quietest time, and the darkest time. But the slow, unstoppable momentum of the earth moves on. God’s answer to our complaint and prayer is not with common words. As we heard in the letter to the Hebrews,

he has spoken to us through the Son,
whom he made heir of all things
and through whom he created the universe,
who is the refulgence of his glory,
the very imprint of his being,
and who sustains all things by his mighty word.

God’s answer to our heavy hearts and feelings of uncertainty is on a whole other level. His coming into our lives is as unstoppable as the momentum of the planet, and the light he brings is unimaginably more than the little brightness we asked for: he brings—or rather he is—the radiance of God’s glory and God’s love.

No doubt, this mighty word will impact each of us in a different way. But there is nothing to prevent us from answering with the psalmist:

As for me, I trust in your merciful love.

Let my heart rejoice in your saving help.

Let me sing to the Lord for his goodness to me,

singing psalms to the name of the Lord, the Most High.