These are the words of the angel to the shepherds when he announces that a Savior has been born for us. “Do not be afraid” is also the greeting the angel gave to Zechariah in announcing the birth of John the Baptist and to Mary in announcing the birth of Jesus. Finally, Jesus often tells people not to be afraid: “Fear is useless; what is needed is trust.”
There are many reasons for us to be afraid this Christmas time. Super storm Sandy displaced countless people and devastated many homes. The unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut has left us reeling at the force of evil.
It is in this context that I welcome you here for Mass this Christmas. It is good that we are together. It is good that we hear words of hope in the midst of fear. It is understandable that we are afraid and that we question where God is in the midst of so much tragedy.
And so I invite you to seek Christ today. I invite you to bring your questions and your fears to Jesus in this Eucharist today. We thank God for the blessings in our lives. We give God credit for keeping us safe or helping us avoid disaster. But then we question why God allows a super storm or mass murder to take place. These are not simply intellectual questions; they are deeply emotional concerns.
Several people have said to me recently that they are so angry at the murders of young children and gifted educators. I realized that I am angry about this too. The unfolding of this drama was gripping that Friday afternoon. Perhaps you are angry too. If so, I invite you to wrestle with God but don’t simply walk away. Bring your questions and emotions to conversation with Christ. Shout if you have to; plead if you must but wrestle with God.
God is not a puppeteer pulling the strings of life. This is true of the good we experience and the bad. On the other hand, God is not a distant and disinterested figure out there somewhere, tired and overwhelmed. God is love. God does not simply love. God is love, the passionate spirit of the very essence of love.
So wrestle with God. You will only lose if you walk away. Wrestling with God is not a matter of winning or losing but of finding a God who is very real and very loving. We celebrate today not simply a romantic ideal of the birth of a child in a stable in Bethlehem. We celebrate the coming of God into human history: a God so passionate in His love for us that He became one of us. He laughs with us. He weeps with us. He walks with us.
Please make a commitment as we begin a new year come to Mass each Sunday so that together we can find God and support one another along the way. May the Lord give you peace.
Rev. James M. McNamara