Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 24, 2016
Mass at Midnight
Christmas Eve is one of the darkest days of the year. As many of you probably know, three days ago, the 21stwas the first day of winter, but it is also the shortest “day” of the year, because it is the day in the northern hemisphere in which we have the shortest amount of daylight in a 24 hour period.

Today, so the experts say, we have experienced only nine hours and 26 minutes of daylight, which leaves us with more than 14 hours of darkness.

There are plenty of reasons to feel as though we are a "people sitting in darkness." Climate change. A nuclear North Korea.Cyber-attacks. Global terrorism. Personal insecurity about relationships, jobs, health, retirement and so on. But there are rays of light. People and children are lighting candles. We turn then to a Child who is the "Light of the World."

Deep, deep darkness. Some say that when you're experiencing darkness in your life, you should pray for God to free you from it. And iafter that you are still in darkness, pay the electric bill.That might help.

But we're not the first people to face dark days. In the time of the prophet Isaiah, about 700 years before the birth of Christ, the people of Israel were walking in darkness -- they "lived in a land of deep darkness." God seemed silent to them, and they were "greatly distressed and hungry." In an earlier passage, Isaiah tells us that they saw "only distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they were thrust into thick darkness" (8:21-22).

We know what this feels like, don't we?

Global terrorism distresses us. Economic insecurity leaves us feeling empty. Climate change and cyber-attacks cause anxiety and anguish, and our fears about the future make us feel as though we are being "thrust into thick darkness."

Darkness. Thick darkness. We need some illumination.

The people of Israel saw a ray of light in the birth of a king, a new descendent of David. "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us," says the prophet Isaiah; "authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." His kingdom shall be established "with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore."

This king was the hope of the people of Israel -- the one who would rule them with justice and righteousness. He was their hope for the future.

We have reason for hope today as well. A writer named Baratunde Thurston recently listened to a number of TED Talks (, "Ideas Worth Spreading: Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world") and learned about an 22-year-old named Taylor Wilson who at 14 years old said to himself, "I'm going to design a new, safer, more efficient nuclear reactor." And then he did it. 

A Kenyan teenager named Richard Turere at 9 years old feared that lions would devour his family's livestock. So he built an automated security system.

Jack Andrakaat just 16 years old, became angry about pancreatic cancer after it killed a family friend. But instead of cursing the darkness, he lit a candle. Bucking conventional wisdom about cancer testing, he developed a protein-based blood test that is much faster, more effective, and cheaper than the current option.

And he did this, says Thurston, "all while dealing with homework, parents and puberty."

"A child has been born for us, a son given to us," says the prophet Isaiah. Children are still being born who are succeeding in making the world a safer, more secure and healthier place. God's kingdom of justice and righteousness is being advanced one innovation at a time.

It's enough to give you hope for the future.

Of course, the most impressive of God's innovators was born in Bethlehem about seven centuries after the prophet Isaiah. Think about that: The people of Israel did not get to see the greatest of David's descendants immediately, but had to wait more than 700 years. And we complain about Christmas advertising starting merely a 100 days before; imagine 700 years!

Would be like us patiently waiting until the 28th century.

No doubt they hoped that their hope for the future would come a little faster.

But come he did. Jesus Christ was born, to show us God's love and to be our Savior. In the middle of a dark, dark night, he came to bring us light and be our hope. And he is our future hope, not because he is a child, but because he is Jesus! 

Isaiah was right to say that "his authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom." The authority of Jesus has only increased, with the world now containing more than 2.2 billion Christians out of 6.9 billion earthly inhabitants -- about a third of the global population. 

Jesus continues to offer us his peace in a challenging and contentious world, saying to us, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid" (John 14:27).

Notice that Jesus does not offer us an escape from life's challenges, but instead he gives us peace in the middle of these challenges.

Jesus also establishes his kingdom "with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore." Like the prophets before him, he is anointed by God "to bring good news to the poor ... release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind" (Luke 4:18, based on Isaiah 61:1). 

He wants justice for all of God's children, rich and poor, black and white, conservative and liberal, immigrant and native-born. He is focused on people being in right relationship with God and with each other. The core meaning of righteousness is "right-relationship" -- not so much following certain rules and regulations as being in loving, giving, just and committed relationships with each of our fellow human beings. This is the kind of relationship that Jesus has with each of us, and it is the kind that he wants us to have with him, with God and with each other.

Our hope for the future is found in Jesus Christ, and in anyone who follows him in justice and righteousness. "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light," says the prophet Isaiah, "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us."

Christmas is the season of hope for the future, where the light of Christ enters the darkness of the world. The birth of Jesus reminds us that children can change things for the better, whether they are designing safer nuclear reactors, developing better cancer blood tests, or being the one and only Savior of the World.

In every generation, there's the possibility that people will act as counselors and peacemakers, following in the footsteps of the Savior who is a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Since the time of Isaiah, people have dreamed that "the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them" (Isaiah 11:6).

That little child is Jesus. As well as the children of God who follow him.

So, on this Christmas Eve, receive the light that is coming into the world! To those who are living in a land of deep darkness, the light of Christ is shining. He enters the lives of each of us today -- to show us God's love, to save us from our sins and to lead us in the paths of justice and righteousness. As we continue to struggle with the dangers and difficulties of life, he gives us his guidance and his peace.

Receive the light. Accept it, embrace it and then share it -- in whatever way you can. Resolve to reflect the light of Christ into the dark places that you see around you. Do whatever you can to make the world a safer, more secure and healthier place. Take actions that establish justice and righteousness in the world -- actions that help to build right relationships between people and God and between people one to another.

Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.

You don't have to build a security system for livestock or develop a new blood test for cancer. You don't have to broker peace between rival gangs or warring nations. But you can visit a lonely relative, invite a neighbor to church, tutor a troubled teenager or plant a community garden. You can be sure that they know that no matter who they are; what they are; who they share a home or life with; Christ is their hope.

Accepting and sharing the light of Christ is the best hope for our future. It's our hope for the futureJesus is our hope for the future!
Let us pray.
Father God, we thank you for bringing Your Light into the world in the Christ Child. From the time of Eden, we have experienced darkness in the world. You have attempted to get us out of that darkness ever since. 
Tonight we have seen a great light. How this Light should increase our joy, yet we sometimes do not allow it. How this Light should inspire us each to work to bring light to those who are most in need or feeling “outside”, yet we often do not
Lord, help us to know that we do not need to be nuclear physicists, electrical engineers or biological scientists to help others; we merely need to be a small instrument in bringing peace, hope, and love to others we meet each and every day. Small acts are big miracles to others. We live in the world that You created, and You saw that everything was good. Help us to see this also, especially in anyone and everyone we meet every day.
When we are down or facing troubles, bring the Light of Christ to our hearts, Lord, that we may find comfort and hope in our needs. 
Help each of us in this chapel this night/day to bring Your Light to one person this coming week, who may be in darkness and in need of Your love. May we, like the shepherds, follow that great light - For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.
Father God, thank you for sending us Your Son.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God Love You +++
The Most Rev. Robert Winzens
Pastor – St. Francis Universal Catholic Church
San Diego, Ca.

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