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Bishop's Homily for Christmas Eve & Day

How hard it is for us to believe in miracles, yet we desperately need them.

By Bishop Larry Silva
December 25, 2016

[Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu; Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu]

How hard it is for us to believe in miracles!  In the beginning, when all was formless and void, God spoke a Word, and through that Word all things came into being:  the light and the darkness, the earth and the sky, the seas and all they contain, the seed-bearing plants, and the birds and beasts of every kind.  Yes, the fulfillment of that Word may have taken millions of years, but it is so hard for us to believe this miracle of creation that we must find a way to explain it all in soulless scientific terms.

How hard it is for us to believe that of all the millions of different creatures, God created us human beings alone in his own image and likeness.  Our hearts are created to be like God, but we found it so unbelievable that such a profound gift could be miraculously bestowed upon us that we thought we had to eat some special fruit or do some other thing to make ourselves like gods, wanting to be in control, and not being able to simply the believe the wonder with which we were made.

How difficult it is for us to believe in the miracle of God’s unfathomable love for us, a love that embraces every person, even those who are very different from us.  And so we draw borders between us, set up boundaries and barriers, so that we will not be overwhelmed with the thought of such great love. 

And yet we come together once again, as we and our ancestors have done for twenty centuries, to try once more to open our hearts to believe in the unbelievable, to put credence in the incredible, and to mark the miracles of God’s great love for us.  We remember that in the fullness of time, God took our skeptical hearts and melted them with a baby.  He overturned out doubts about his desire to share his very life with us by becoming one of us in the child whose birth we celebrate today, who is the eternal Word made flesh in time, the one through whom all things were made.  God inspired stories of this wondrous meeting of heaven and earth, and we come to share those stories, to sing of them, and to rejoice in them.  And so God tries once again to turn our skeptical eyes to see that miracles do happen all the time.

We see a family struggling to make ends meet, dealing with one member’s addiction or illness, or experiencing excruciating grief.  Yet when they turn to the One whose birth we celebrate today, they experience the miracle of hope in the very thickets of sorrow.  We see the homeless and the hungry, and we reach out to them with food and clothing, with care and shelter; and even if their outward situation does not change, they experience a miracle of human warmth and caring.  We see those who are oppressed by violence in their own homes or in their own beloved countries, and we raise our voices in protest against those who practice such violence; and even if they continue to struggle, they experience the miracle of solidarity and know that they are no longer alone.  We see friends and family members leading empty lives, still grasping for the fruitless fruit that promises everything but brings nothing but death, and we gently – or not so gently – guide them to embrace the little child whose birth we celebrate today, and miracles happen once again.

How difficult it is for us to believe in miracles, yet how desperately we need them.  And today we gather to sing of our belief, even as we beg the Lord to help our unbelief.  We come to see that the great miracle of God dwelling with us sinful and weak human beings is fulfilled in a little baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.  We come to hear the ancient Scriptures inspired by God, so that the miracle of the Word made flesh and dwelling among us may happen in our flesh, as the Word of God penetrates us like a two-edged sword.  We come to the manger, where beasts gather to feed, and we eat the flesh and drink the blood of the very Lamb of God who was first laid in a manger and who now makes himself truly present to us in the simplicity of bread and wine.

We come with our doubts and our darkness, with our fears and our failings to open our hearts more deeply to believe in the miracle of God’s incredible love for us.  And when we do, a miracle takes place right before our eyes, the Son of God and Son of the Virgin Mary, looks at us with his innocent eyes, and melts our hearts to believe the unbelievable.  Angels sing once again, calling us to “Come, let us adore him.”  And we are sent out ourselves as messengers of these glad tidings of great joy to a world still hungry for miracles, as with our very lives we sing every day, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”