It cannot be said enough – in this year of stress and turmoil --- Merry Christmas!
On the feast we come to know that nothing is impossible to God ---------- so at least for a day – we turn over all our worries and anxieties over to God – and enjoy a day nurturing our relationships with family and friends ---------- either in person, by zoom, or with a phone call.
Mother Theresa once said – If you want to practice world peace -------- go home and love your family – and that will be a good start.
May we do just that as we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace. And now a story. . .
Joey had waited years to step into the lead role of the 4th grade Christmas pageant. He thought he would be a shoe-in for one of the top performers: after all who was more natural for the lead of Joseph, the father of Jesus --- than a boy with the same name?
So as the days grew shorter and the wind blew colder and the days of Advent lessened: Joey grew more excited.
The day finally came for the roles to be assigned and Joey left for school that morning very excited – but returned very sad.
His mother quickly picked up on his mood and to address the elephant in the room said to him: “I guess you never got the part you wanted.”
“NO”, Joey said, almost in tears, “Ben got the part of Joseph this year. My role doesn’t even have a name. . . I’m just the third shepherd on the left. . .
I don’t even think I want to be in the play this year!”
Sometimes a mother has to think pretty quickly of what to say in order to heal a wounded ego ---but what should Joey’s mother say to him?
-- we don’t always get what we want, that’s just life --- so get over it. . . That may be the truth – but was it going to be helpful?
--Or -- Keep studying the lines and hope that Ben gets sick the night of the performance then you can step in. That doesn’t sound too kind. . . or even realistic. . .
--Or should she say: I’m sure the costume worn by the third shepherd on the left will be so stunning and eye-catching – everyone will be looking at you and not at Joseph.
Joey’s mom did not think any of these seemed like the right thing to say.
So difficult though it was --- this is what she told him.
“You know Joey, I guess the teacher thought Ben had more of what it took to be Joseph. . .
“If you haven’t noticed yet, no two people – not even you and your sister both from the same family – have the same gifts. So instead of feeling jealous of Ben’s gifts and talents which landed him the part of Joseph – it’s important for you to discover what your own gifts are.
“And then hard as it may be for you now and up to the night of the performance – you need to celebrate Ben’s gifts of being Joseph – celebrate from right where you are standing on the stage: the third shepherd on the left.”
Joey’s mother was trying to teach him a most important lesson in life. . .
It’s not about titles or roles or fame or attention that make us important. What’s important is the person God has created us to be – and to go about being that person as best we can.
In life we may not be named in the playbill, or be in the spotlight – we may be just one of many in the chorus – or someone working off stage. We may, in fact, be a simple shepherd of shepherdess -- who just happened to be in the right place at the right time to be able to do the right thing.
But our lives are neither random nor accidental – we are part of God’s plan. Our role has been written in purposefully, and we must step up to play our part in salvation history.
There are countless saints whose names we do not know – who lived quiet, normal, unremarkable lives but who have been good people.
Just think – century upon century and nation upon nation of people who led faith-filled, mundane lives who are now Saints among the Saints in the halls of heaven.
Moms, grandpas, first responders, poets, migrant workers, waitresses, bus drivers and mechanics --- the entirety of human history must be accounted for when we wonder how full heaven might be.
These “ordinary saints” are just as surely heavenly residents as any of the great names we invoke in our litanies – and there are lots of them.
So no matter how you felt when you walked in the door tonight – happy, sad, feeling good about your life and your family, despondent, depressed – hopeful or hopeless, tired, wearied, worried or full of enthusiasm ---------- when you leave this place may you feel a little more joyful and triumphant ------- knowing that you have encountered the living God in this place – the wonder-counselor, God-hero, Father-forever, the prince of peace ------
Who out of his kindness and generous love – came down to earth to save ------------ you –
The one who created the unique person who you are and calls you to go about being that person as best you can.
All of us have our role to play in salvation history –and my role is not yours – and your role is not mine. Everyone in a Christmas pageant – whether it is Mary, or Joseph, a magi, or the third shepherd from the left – and everyone in life – is important – and no role is any more special than any other.
After all, the 3rd shepherd from the left was the precise individual who was led by the angels to the stable and who was one of the first to see the newborn Christ. . .
As Christ invites us to journey through another liturgical year – may we come all the more to an understanding of who God has call us to be.
The greatest gifts God has given us is our life and our faith --- may we live them both to the fullest. And be filled with gratitude for the unique blessings God showers down upon us.
O come let us adore him, o come let us adore him, o come let is adore him – Christ, the lord.
Moments in time...