Hi everyone… MERRY CHRISTMAS!  Thanks for stopping by… Here’s my homily for THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD (CHRISTMAS DAY) – December 25, 2017.  The readings for the various Masses of Christmas can be found at www.usccb.org.  Thanks for reading, sharing this on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit – and for your feedback and comments.  Grateful for all your support.  My prayers and best wishes to you and your family for a Happy and Holy Christmas Season!  God Bless – Fr Jim

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Would greatly appreciate it if you would consider supporting the Newman Catholic Center at Montclair State in our Annual Christmas appeal.  You can read about it at  http://www.msunewman.com/appealMany thanks for your consideration!

       One of the wonders of the internet has got to be the emergence of viral videos. What did we do before phones became smart, allowing us to  capture and record every moment of our lives….What did we do before things like YouTube existed where we could share those precious moments with the entire universe?  We probably had more meaningful conversations and relationships in that era, but, that’s a topic for another time and another place…  In any event, it’s always unique to see things that take off and become viral.  From the bizarre: like a guy who had this mesmerizing ping pong trick that went on for over 7 minutes (can’t believe I watched it to the end – but then again, so did almost 100 million people) – to clips from late night shows or talent shows that caught people’s interest – to hysterical creations like the one that was floating around the other day, re-imagining the Christmas story taking place in 2017 with Mary, Joseph, the angel Gabriel all texting each other.  These clips and videos that are being shared in emails, on social media and even on television news receive a lot of attention – with millions of people viewing them in a short period of time.

        A couple of weeks ago, something seemingly very simple –there wasn’t any flashy production or multiple camera angles – it was merely a cell phone video (and the version I saw had no sound) that was seen by more than 24 million people. It was of a toddler named Aubrey simply hugging people.  Tyler and Michelle Hull took their daughter to Sunday Mass at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Oklahoma. As people got on line to receive Jesus’ Body and Blood in communion, she stood up in the pew and began hugging every single person that walked by her. Aubrey’s parents said she had never done that before. When they realized what she was doing, Todd started to film it…  old or young, rich or poor… it didn’t matter what race or gender of the person was; she simply extended both her arms and leaned out to people looking to hug them. You could see how startled people were. Some had tears in their eyes, some little kids tried to look away, but she would stand there simply waiting and eventually they lowered their defenses to stop and receive her hug and even reciprocated.  One guy awkwardly tried to shake her hand, but Aubrey won over him and as she leaned in and turned that into a hug.  Another woman looked hesitant, or rather distracted – like she had something serious on her mind – and within no time, her demeanor changed as she gave this little girl a loving hug back she wanted to share with her. (Check out the video here: http://fox59.com/2017/12/01/video-adorable-oklahoma-girl-hugs-everyone-on-their-way-to-receive-communion/ )

         I first saw the video probably during the first week of December – and when I think about the sheer amount of stuff I absorb on a daily basis – viral in the truest sense of the word if I’m honest – it was kind of special to me how this occupied my mind space this week.  At the time, I was sitting with the four different sets of scripture options that priests can choose from for the Various Christmas Masses…. I was thinking about all kinds of things, approaches and ideas with regard to I wanted to preach about.  And to be honest, I was starting to over-think it (it happens from time to time) The other night, as I passed by the manger scene in our Newman Center, and just looking at the amazing sight of baby Jesus, this viral story struck me in a way that left an impression in my mind. Aubrey essentially reminded us what Christmas is all about.

         The God of all creation – who has made the heavens, the earth, the universe, the galaxies; the God of the Hebrew Scriptures who performed countless mighty deeds and wondrous signs that was able to capture the people’s attention and enlighten them into entering a relationship with Him…  He wanted to capture their hearts as well more than anything else. He wanted to have an even more intimate relationship.  Something that is not simply spelled out in commandments on stone tablets; but lived out every single day in the form of person to person and heart to heart encounters. The ONLY way for that to happen would be for God to become one of us, to be one with us… to save us from our sin, save us from death and get us to be one with Him.  Inevitably, the Christian story – the miraculous story of our lord Jesus – places us squarely in front of the manger.  This God, who becomes man, comes in the simplicity, the beauty, the approachability and innocence of a baby.

         And just like that Church in Oklahoma where Aubrey and her parents go to Mass, we have all entered these doors and will soon approach the altar to receive this all-powerful God becoming man in the Eucharist.  On Christmas, as we gather in much greater numbers, the reality is that everyone is coming from different places, mentally, physically, spiritually. Rich and poor; old and young… some who are celebrating and basking in the joy of good news, and others who have experienced some serious stuff that has made even being here today a difficult, if not an outright painful experience.  

         But as always, there is good news. For all of us, Jesus wants to keep things simple today. He’s come down from heaven to love you unconditionally; all he wants you to do is to accept that love wholeheartedly and completely.  He wants your heart; He doesn’t care much about your intelligence or lack of it. He wants to capture your soul so that it can be sealed in His presence forever. He wants your life – so that He can make it eternal. 

         May these simple yet eternal truths be renewed in our hearts as we think about little Aubrey and recognizing the fact that this is what the Baby Jesus is bringing to us as He personifies God’s love.  He wants to give us all a warm hug. What’s more, He’ll eventually find a way to do it and wait for us if we refuse to for some reason. God stretches, bends a little or stands still – whatever it takes to get us to be one with Him. Like a loving parent, He continues to extend His arms towards us in much anticipation. The question is: will we reciprocate and hug Him back? Will we walk away or choose to melt in His wonderful presence, surrendering our egos to His everlasting mercy and grace?