Bishop Vetter’s Homily from Christmas Eve Mass at the Cathedral of St. Helena 2019

Two weeks ago, I was in Missoula, and I visited one of our Catholic schools, Loyola Sacred Heart. I met a girl in the hallway and asked what class she was going to. She said, “Creative Writing class,” I said, “I’m coming with you.” I asked the class of 14 to write me a Christmas Eve homily. They just kind of stared at me and didn’t know if I was serious, I assured them that I was and they asked if I would use it, and I said, “if it is any good, if not, I will just throw it away.” I throw away more homilies than I give, I probably should throw more of them away. They did a great job!

Here is a section of their homily (I have to have some of my own stuff). “As unprepared as we felt to write a homily for Christmas, yes was the only answer. I’m sure we looked a little like Mary and Joseph when Gabriel appeared and asked them to do something they felt utterly unqualified for. We only had three days of class… when would we find the time to write something interesting or useful? We just didn’t feel prepared. We are sure Mary and Joseph felt the same way. For Mary, Christmas was hectic before it even existed. Her Advent lasted nine months instead of 4 weeks and was filled with unfinished preparations. She had to visit her cousin Elizabeth, travel for days to get to Bethlehem, and, when the wait was finally over, she was giving birth in a stable.

But, despite all the stress and hassle, she carried through and gave birth to Jesus. Mary’s answer was yes, even though it was scary and inconvenient, and, for the first time, God as man came down to touch the Earth and decided to live with us. The Catholic Church likes to stress two things about Jesus’ birth; First, that it is a common birth to poor people under anything but glamorous circumstances. And second, that He does so to save us. But, as special as Christmas is, many of us forget it is not the only time God has come down to us. In fact, we can see Him daily, and receive Him into ourselves in the Eucharist…at Mass and in the Tabernacle. The Eucharist is a year-round Christmas present, one, as Catholics, that we only have to say yes to receive.

Mary shows us there is always a lot of preparation before we can receive gifts. We fret and stress about all the little details: the dozens of cookies and treats we have to bake, the family Christmas cards we have to send, or that one gift flying off the retail shelves before we have time to get to the store. Yet after all the trouble, after all the planning, panicking, praying, and the waiting….waiting…waiting, we finally arrive.

Advent cannot last forever; Christmas comes, no matter how well we have prepared ourselves. The sun peeks over the horizon on Christmas Day, and all those stressful things fall to the wayside. And that is why we are gathered here in this beautiful Cathedral. We are here because we said yes despite our unfinished to-do lists. We may not feel ready. We may not feel worthy to be here, but here we are, in this moment we can clear our heads and hearts, surrounded by family and friends and the whole community to allow ourselves to be loved by God.

Mary, faced with the impossible task of motherhood to God Himself, could only move forward with love. We hope, even if you don’t feel ready, your answer for your tomorrows, whatever they may look like, is yes.”

Isn’t that great! What a wonderful thing they did, they spent three days thinking, talking and praying about how they would share this Christmas mystery with others. Perhaps that is the most they ever thought about this mystery. My brothers and sisters, I have an assignment for you. During these days of Christmas, spend some time thinking, talking with others, and praying about how and what you would say about this mystery of God becoming one of us to others. Write a homily! And then the challenge to all of us is to live that homily “out there.” May we bring this Christmas mystery to others by the way we see them, treat them, talk to them, care for them, forgive them, and love them.

So let us quiet ourselves now, and like Mary and Joseph, let us look at the Baby Jesus with love and allow the warmth of His love to penetrate deeply within us. Look at Him, looking at you. He has nothing to say. Ssshhh. Hold Him and say, “Jesus, thank you for loving me….I love you.”