What is so special about Christmas? It is only the second most important feast, after Easter. Why then is Christmas so special to our hearts?
We can see the difference if we take the example of the original Star Wars movies. The Return of the Jedi is the movie of joyous victory: the empire is ended, the emperor is dead, Darth Vader is saved, and all the galaxy rejoices in its liberation from slavery. This is a tiny taste of the far greater mystery of Easter: Satan’s empire is defeated, his end is certain, and eternal life, joy and freedom become an option for all who decide to give themselves to God with all of their heart.
But this has not yet happened at Christmas. If Easter is like Return of the Jedi, then Christmas is like Star Wars – A New Hope. In this earlier film, the darkness is still all-powerful, and all live in terror of Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers. And then suddenly – there is an innocent boy who is good, and decides to do good: a fragile spark of light who risks himself in the darkness. This is a taste of the far greater mystery of Christmas: that God loves us so much, that even though he is almighty, and even though every person is a corrupt, untrustworthy slave to evil, he decides to become a human being, a tiny pure baby, to live in this darkness with us, to suffer in it, so that the Father might one day liberate everyone.
But Father, you might say, that is so nice – but how can I experience this? There are three very simple ways. Number one – pray every day. If you do not pray every day – what are you doing with your life? Because you are missing out on the only thing which makes life wonderful: because he is the only one who makes happiness and life itself possible – God. Our family, friends, work, skills, health or wealth always end. But the love of God is forever. And nothing else on earth is perfect love, truth, goodness or beauty. Do you want these things? If you want them, you can have them – but only from him, as only God can give them.
And this is why, number two, we never miss Sunday mass. All of us are offended at the words of the Innkeeper – how dare he say to the baby Jesus, I’m sorry, there is no room for you here, go away over there? And of course we are right. And this is why we never miss Sunday mass – because to do so is to say no to the baby Jesus. Every time we receive communion in the state of grace, we are saying again: yes, Baby Jesus, I welcome you into the inn of my heart, into the centre of my life, into the home of my family. That is what Amen means: Yes.
But to prepare our heart to receive the baby Jesus, we need a clean stable. This is number three: to go often to confession. Do not be afraid or too ashamed: sin is boring and uninteresting, and Father has heard sins like yours before. And, as Jesus tells us, it is the only normative way for forgiveness of sins. What will you lose? Only the weight of our sins. What will we gain? A light heart full of joy, and to be again an innocent child of God. So do not be afraid at all: the priest is your brother. All he wants to give us is God’s love, and peace. All of this is why being a Christian is a joy, and why a Christian lifestyle is far far and away the best lifestyle. Because living as a Christian is to live as a person who is truly happy and free and fearless. So let us ask God to help us really live as Christians every day. Amen.