A legendary Chicago south side Irish priest is said to have had only one Christmas “sermon” which he repeated every year at Midnight Mass: “‘Da’ wood of the crib is ‘da’ wood of the cross.”
Though not the cuddly Christmas scene commonly depicted, it none-the-less is a most concise telling of the whole of the story of the Incarnation. God speaks the Word into the world and the Word becomes flesh—a child born into time and space and family and friends and politics and religion and joy and sorrow and life and death. A life like ours. Gazing through the suspended wreath at the cross in the apse of our church, we recall that it is much like the cross that inspired St. Francis of Assisi of which Pope Francis recently spoke:
“On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! …Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become ‘a new creation.’ Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own…” (October 4, 2013 as Pope Francis visited Assisi).
In this holy season may you know the touch of Jesus in your life. May you look into the eyes of those you encounter and see the Christ. May you know the deep peace of the Word spoken for you. May God touch your heart and bring you joy.
Fr. Ken Simpson