Homily for the Christmas Vigil, 2018
Every family has a story. A story of the good grandpa, the kind grandma, a selfless sister or a brother who went out of his way or her way to make life better for others. Families also have stories of betrayal, deceit, scheming, hatred, bitterness, animosity and so on that have destroyed the bond of the families. These stories are real. We may not like them, but they are our stories.
They tell us where we have come from, who we are, how we shall live our lives and most times, they define our purpose in life. In a nutshell, our family stories unravel our identities. We can choose to deny them, but we can’t ignore their influence on us. Every story influences how we relate with others; who we trust and who we avoid. Our actions have traces of our stories.
This background helps us to understand why Matthew began his Gospel with the family story of Jesus of Nazareth. While the names and characters in the story might be ancient, their personalities and behaviour traits are familiar to us. In a way, Jesus’ family story resembles our individual stories. Example: Abraham, our father in faith told a lie to save himself and his wife.
We find in the story that King David, the man after God’s heart, was idle, lustful, committed adultery, and to cover his tracks manipulated the system, Uriah was killed. This is a real family story. It also has female characters like Tamar, who had sexual relations with her father-in-law; Ruth from a people given to idolatry; Rahab a notorious prostitute by trade; and Bathsheba the adulteress.
Why on earth would the Son of God choose to come from a family with this kind of story? The answer is simple – love. He so loves the world that He gave Himself, became one of us and lived with us. He demonstrated by becoming man that love has the capacity to accept the other irrespective of their stories. That what matters is to fall in love, for love heals and transforms every story.
This is the heart of the Christmas story, love becomes a person to love us and to teach us how to love in return. Love speaks. He speaks looking back and calling us all out of our own realities that have made us to be susceptible to seeing what is wrong instead of focusing on loving, caring, nurturing and living. He took up our nature first to affirm it, and then to love it.
To all, the story of Christmas is the New Story. It is the story in which we can participate no matter what our stories might have been. Yes, your story might have been that of struggle. You are worried about your children’s future, Jesus came for you and for them. He came to lock His eyes with yours, as babies will, so that He can search your heart and reveal you to yourself.
He came to ask you and me to let down our defences, and fall in love with Him, with God made man – the child lying in the manger who is helpless, who must depend on His creatures for His needs and for His safety. In other words, He came to ask us to fall in love with our own vulnerability. He came to set us free, to tell us the Truth; that we are more than what our stories tell us.
This is the freedom from the effects our family stories can have on us. It is the freedom that we experience when we carry the Christ Child in our hands, focus on Him instead of focusing on ourselves. It is the freedom that fills us with joy and sends us out to tell the good news: A Child has been born. The New Story is now being told. Come and listen. Happy Christmas!
Fr. Francis Afu