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Essential elements of a Christmas Story

I wish to begin by calling to mind the essential elements of the Christmas story:  The setting was Bethlehem with a stable and a manger and the participants were the Holy Family and the shepherds and the angels.  That is what we see when we look at the Bethlehem scene from the outside.

 

But to get the full story we need to ask, “What is happening on the inside?”  What is happening in the hearts of the people involved.  We begin with Mary.  What was in her heart?  Her heart was filled with love.  She loved her child with a love beyond all telling.  She held him close and protected him from the cold and nurtured him at every moment.

 

Her love for Jesus was unconditional.  She loved him on good days and on bad days.  She loved him so much that she stood by his side when he died on the cross.  Her heart was filled with love for her child.

 

We move now to Joseph.  What was in his heart?  His heart was filled with hope…Hope that this special child would be able to change the world.  The world was full of mean-spirited people like King Herod who wanted to kill all the baby boys in his kingdom.  Joseph was hoping that the Christ Child would be able to change the hearts of mean-spirited people so that they would have warm and loving hearts.  The heart of Joseph was filled with hope.

 

We move now to the angels.  What was in their hearts?  They came down from heaven with a message of peace.  They said to the shepherds, “We bring you glad tidings of great joy.  There will be peace on the earth and blessings for all people.”  The angels came to the earth as the ambassadors of peace.

 

What about the shepherds?  What was in their hearts on that holy night?  Their hearts were filled with joy.   Why?  Because they had been selected by the angels to be the first to see the newborn king.   Usually, the people from the palace and the people from the upper class were selected for that honor.  But that was not in God’s plan.  God wanted the last to be first and the first to be last and that is why God selected the shepherds to be first in line to see the newborn king.  The hearts of the shepherds were filled with joy. 

 

We turn now to the Christ Child.  What was in his heart?  His heart was filled with obedience.  He came into this world to fulfill his Father’s plan.  He frequently said to his Heavenly Father: “Thy will be done.”

 

What was God’s plan?  God wanted to the heal divisions in society and to help all people to live in harmony.  And that is what Jesus did.  He came into this world as the Prince of Peace as we heard in today’s first reading.  He made friends with Romans and Greeks and Jews and Samaritans and Canaanites.        His heart was filled with obedience.  Jesus came to fulfill his Father’s plan.  

 

Now I would like each of us to insert ourselves into the Christmas story.  Mary’s heart was filled with love.  We can take on her spirit by loving others without counting the cost or seeking reward.  Joseph’s heart was filled with hope.  We can take on his spirit and move into the future with hope because we know that Jesus will be in our future.  He will be there to help us with every situation that comes along.

 

The angels’ hearts were filled with peace.  We can take on their spirit by working as peacemakers in our world today.  We are called to work for peace in our families, peace in our community, peace in our country and peace in our world. 

 

The hearts of the shepherds were filled with joy.  Today we savor the joy of having our Savior living in our hearts.  We are joyful because Jesus has found a home in our hearts.

 

The heart of Jesus was filled with obedience.  St. Paul says in Philippians, Chapter 2, that Jesus was obedient even to the point of carrying the cross when his Father asked him to do so.  Today we take on his spirit by obeying all of the commandments that we have received from our loving creator.

 

I will close by asking you to bring your children to the front of the church to see the crib scene sometime during the Christmas season.  When you do so, think about what is in the heart of each person in the Christmas story.  Their hearts contain hope, love, joy, obedience, peace, and harmony.  And then ask yourself, “What is in my heart as I celebrate Christmas this year?  What is in my heart?

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Br. Ralph Edwin Dahl, osc     1938–2024

The Mass of Christian Burial for Br. Ralph will take place at 11 a.m. on July 25, at the Crosier Priory in Onamia,

with the Office of the Dead at 7:30 a.m. (Morning Prayer) followed by the Reception of the Body at 9:30 a.m. and visitation at 10 a.m.

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