Is 9. 1-6; Ps 96; Tit 2. 11-14; Lk 2. 1-15
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Wrapped and Unwrapped
Merry Christmas! Jesus injected into his preaching examples from daily living to point people to God and to God’s kingdom, which continues to dawn in our day. Following Jesus I offer you a two-way example this Christmas, wrapped and “Unwrapped.”
Wrapped we have done. We prepared gifts by covering them with colorful, festive paper. Wrapping both designates a thing as a gift and surprises the one who receives our gift.
The Giver of all gifts, our God, chose our human nature and our fragile flesh and wrapped God’s divine being in our human nature and our fragile flesh and all they entail. Sadness is one result of our human frailty. Fear is another. Fear leads to exclusion and disfigures dignity. The Giver of all gifts chose to be wrapped in our human nature and fragile flesh to free us from these and all consequences of sin and to renew our purpose and restore our hope in life. Our new purpose and new hope in life begin with our experience of the world and of the risen life promised us by God in Jesus, the Word made flesh by Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin.
God’s choice to be wrapped in our human nature recreates us, as Pope St. Leo reminded his hearers on a Christmas over 1500 years ago. “Sadness [is out of] place on the birthday of life.” He continued: the “fear of death has been swallowed up [by the incarnation]; life brings us joy with the promise of eternal happiness.” “No one is shut out from this joy”/1/: rich or poor; healthy or infirm; young or old; native or alien; wise or unwise; secure or insecure in the world. Our Christian dignity includes and elevates each one’s human dignity. Today is an occasion to remember our Christian dignity,/2/ of which Jesus’ birth reminds us as we contemplate the manger: people are more valuable than their surroundings.
As we contemplate, we remember. Christians’ memory is not exclusively a mental exercise. Christians remember best when we act on our dignity restored and enriched by God, who chose our human nature and to be wrapped in it. God in Jesus by their Spirit was wrapped in our human nature so that we might share “God’s own nature.”/3/
Until we share God’s nature completely, our role is to unwrap what God offers and to what God in Jesus invites us. What God has done in Jesus by their Spirit is no secret to keep from the world. It’s the opposite! We live to unwrap and to share the Gift, who the Giver of all gifts has become for all people: one who modeled by example; one who led by serving; one who gave himself for our sakes.
What precisely do we do when we unwrap? The Food Network offers a clue. One series on the Food Network is entitled “Unwrapped.” The show unwraps “the secrets of America’s favorite snack foods. “[One show even] ‘unwrap[ed]’ the Food Network [itself], taking viewers behind-the-scenes of [some other] series...revealing what it...takes to put [those] shows on the air./4/
When Christians unwrap, then, we follow Jesus’ example. Jesus wrapped himself in our human nature so that we might share and reveal God’s goodness to the world.
We follow Jesus’ example when we unwrap for others our joy; when we unwrap with others our confidence in Jesus and his life; and when we welcome others into our gift of joy and enhance their dignity. We reveal in our limited ways God-with-us so God will not be secret.
The Giver of all gifts, human and divine, became our gift. Wrapped in our human nature, God in Jesus by their Spirit confirms and sustains us. Wrapped in our human nature, God in Jesus by their Spirit anoints us as prophets, priests and monarchs of the new creation. Wrapped in our human nature, God in Jesus by their Spirit fashions us into a people [who is God’s] own, eager to do what is good. Wrapped in our human nature, God in Jesus by their Spirit gives us all an active vocation: to unwrap, reveal and share their goodness to us. The beginning of our vocation has much in common with the shepherds, who went to Bethlehem to see [God wrapped in our nature] which the Lord has made known to [them and to] us. Like them, what God has wrapped in our nature, we unwrap in worship, word and deed.
1. These qualities are found in Pope St. Leo’ brief homily in the Office of Readings for today.
4. Foodnetwork's descriptionof that show.
Wiki-image of the Nativity is in the public domain.