A Sentimental Christmas Homily
Recently an atheist friend of a Catholic law student tried to convince her to become an atheist. She declined and said she just didn’t have the energy to deny the existence of God. The young lady had a good point. God surrounds us with proof of His reality, and His beauty and goodness are hard to ignore.
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In a short nature video, a bird with an exotic tropical head plume presented herself as an opera star, squawking a few bird tunes. The wide variety of birds populating our skies like angels is fascinating. Are the comic designs of monkeys, giraffes, dogs, and cats arbitrary? A video captured an angry rhinoceros—a freaky creature—toppling a small car with passengers inside because the vehicle violated its space. A good rule of life: Don’t be as mean as a rhino.
It’s hard to imagine that these critters were products of random forces. They carry the unmistakable handiwork of an intelligent Creator. With a little intellectual effort, our sense goes beyond intuition. St. Thomas Aquinas had the energy to more or less demonstrate the existence of God.
St. Thomas presented five arguments: (1) All that moves has a Prime Mover, and that Mover is God. (2) Every effect has a cause, like falling dominoes, so there must be a Prime Domino Pusher. (3) Everything in creation exists because it depends on another being (parents, for example, all the way back to Adam and Eve). Logic dictates the reality of the First Being, God. (4) Everything good is lacking in some quality of goodness relative to a Supreme Good. God’s perfection is absolute. And (5) the created order of existence didn’t magically happen. God is the Chief Designer.
The denial of the existence of God does not only violate healthy human sensibilities. Dodging the abundant evidence is unreasonable and exhausting, even amidst the turmoil of every life. In the Academy Award-winning film, A Man for All Seasons, the producers frame the passion of St. Thomas More with the beauty of changing seasons. God’s handiwork and love remain even when we try to spoil His good creation with our sins.
Why wouldn’t an all-good God, Creator, Designer, Prime Mover—and the rest—reveal Himself to us and save us from our sins? Christmas is a time for low-energy contemplation—at least after opening the gifts and clearing the table: sitting around the Christmas tree, relaxing, and enjoying the view. The manger scene in Bethlehem—King David’s “House of Bread” foreshadows the Eucharist, and the fulfillment of Scripture in the Child Jesus brings glad tidings of joy. God reveals Himself to us because He loves us. He enters the world not with a bang of vindictive rage but with the beauty of a baby’s whimper.
His love is contagious, with sentimental goodwill. The celebrated 1914 Christmas Truce between opposing sides during the Great War in Europe, if allowed to continue, could have prevented the conflagration of world war. But with the iron enforcement of military discipline, commanders on both sides extinguished that flicker of Christmas peace. Vindictively stoking the fires of hatred takes much effort and displaces the tender awareness of God’s love.
A careless disregard for God’s beauty denies the appeal of Gospel testimony. The shepherds heard the angels sing in the valley and sought Mother and Child in Bethlehem, and kings came from afar to offer loving tribute to the newborn King. These things are too beautiful to ignore or dismiss with cynicism. Let’s even give the Little Drummer Boy a wink and a nod in our low-energy sentimental state of God’s peace.
Christmas is a time of the glorious Silent Night, sleeping in heavenly peace with “radiant beams from Thy holy face” and “with the dawn of redeeming grace.” On Christmas, we relax in the peaceful beauty of the Child Jesus, with Mary and Joseph—and God’s promise of eternal love.
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Is. 49:15-16)
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