Good morning. It is 11:27 a.m. On Christmas morning. Well done, you! Look at all you’ve already done. You’ve gotten out of bed, had your morning cup of coffee, and gotten a good start on Christmas. You’ve opened presents, or wrapped last-minute presents; you’ve had a big family Christmas breakfast, or at least snuck in your favorite holiday pastry. You’ve opened up the eggnog, put the turkey in the oven, cleaned up six of the seven fishes from last night’s supper. Maybe you’ve even caught a few minutes of A Christmas Story on TBS. And you’ve made it here for Mass – bravo! Some of you on very little sleep – I know, because I saw you at midnight last night. But you’re here, at 11:27 on Christmas morning, showered and shaved and present-ed and pastry-ed and warmed up and full of joy.
Of course, that’s nothing compared with what families with kids have accomplished by this time on Christmas morning. Can you remember how many things you had already done by this time in the morning on the Christmases of your childhood? By 11:27 in the morning, kids have been up for hours and hours and hours. The presents are not only unwrapped, they’re out of the packaging and strewn about the house. Dolls have been fitted out with several different outfits, bikes have been tried out in the street, new gaming systems have been plugged in and shapchats posted, remote control cars have been crashed into the molding enough times that Moms have had to use middle names. Some kids have even gotten dressed and come to church! Breakfasts have been eaten and cleaned up, the Christmas playlist has already been repeated, and parents everywhere are wishing they could settle down for a long winter’s nap. Christmas with kids means a busy morning; Christmas with kids means that by 11:27, you’ve already done it all.
I can only imagine how much the Holy Family had done by 11:27 on Christmas morning. Jesus had been up for hours and hours. And with the long night of labor and of listening to the lowing of the cattle and the shuffling of shepherds, I imagine that Mary and Joseph were ready for a long winter’s nap. But there was so much to do! There were blankets and bedding to clean up; there was food to find and plans to make. Joseph gathered some wood and made a fire outside the mouth of the cave; he milked the sweet little goat who had kept them warm all night and gave the milk to his beautiful, exhausted wife. Mary was feeding the babe, again – so grateful that her little Jesus was so hungry, because she had seen what happened when newborns wouldn’t nurse. She cleaned him and swaddled him, and it took her three full tries to get it right. She had done this for other babies hundreds of times, but somehow when the child was finally her own, every tuck and fold of the fabric seemed so much more important. Joseph walked to the well, drew some water and drew some stares when he did so as the only man within sight or recent memory to carry a water jug. Mary bathed, Joseph helped to rake fresh hay. Mary joked about going back to the innkeeper, babe in arms, to see if there was a room now; Joseph laughed and said that he preferred the company of the cows. They fed and ate, washed and cuddled, cleaned and packed, napped and prayed, smiled and wept and shook their heads. By 11:27 on that Christmas morning, the Holy Family must have felt like they had already lived an entire day’s worth of worry and wonder and joy.
But by 11:27 on that Christmas morning, something else had happened, something greater and grander. What God had done by 11:27 on that Christmas morning made all our actions look as tiny as a newborn’s toes. For by 11:27 on Christmas morning, God had changed everything. By 11:27 on Christmas morning, God had moved in the world, and moved into the world, like never before. God’s own Word, speaking since the beginning of time, no – not the beginning of time, but simply the beginning – that eternal Word that brought all things into being, the seas and the heavens and the whole round world, that same Word had been made flesh and begun living among mortals – and among about the mortal-y-est mortals there could be – a harried innkeeper, a motley bunch of misfit shepherds, a brave and frightened carpenter, and a faithful and fledgling mother.
By 11:27 on Christmas morning, God had already changed everything. The Lord had bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth could now see the salvation of our God. True, the arm that was bared was surprisingly small and pudgy. And true, you could see the salvation of our God only if you were willing to travel to a literal hole-in-the-wall in the hole-in-the-wall town of Bethlehem. But that was the miracle – by 11:27 on Christmas morning, God had changed the game, but in a way that was so quiet and so real, you had to pay attention to notice. You had to look for stars and start following them. You had to listen to angels and start trusting in them. You had to find the shepherds and start moving like one of them. And when you did, you found yourself gazing into the eyes of this tiny, beautiful boy, and you knew, somehow, that the world at 11:27 this morning was simply not the same.
This was true at 11:27 on Christmas morning, and it is still true for us at 11:27 today. The world we live in is different because of what we celebrate here. We have to pay attention to see it. We have to look for the light in our hearts and in each other; we have to listen to angels and to the Angelus, we have to find our identity as disciples, as followers of Jesus, and start walking like one. But when we do, we find ourselves gazing into the very heart of Christmas, and we know that the world is wholly different – holy, and his.
It may not always look like it. It may look like hate has won the day, that suffering and want will soon swamp us all. But here at 11:27 on Christmas morning, we lift up our voices and sing a new song. For God has already changed everything. The light of the world has shined into the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. Jesus is born, Jesus is God with us, Jesus is God for us, Jesus saves us, Jesus loves us and commands us to love one another, Jesus tells us to bless and break and eat and drink in remembrance of him and when we do, Jesus comes. Here, at 11:27 on Christmas morning, Jesus is come. For us, and for the blessing and redemption and salvation of the whole world.
This is what God had accomplished by 11:27 on Christmas morning: only the reordering of the entire universe and the gift of a love that will not fail us, ever. This love always is. This love always is with us. For the truth is that by 11:27 tomorrow morning, God will already have been blessing you for hours. And by 11:27 on Tuesday, God will already have been breathing life into your body since the stars winked out into the morning. By 11:27 on Wednesday, God will already have loved you awake. By 11:27 on Thursday, God will already have poured out peace upon you and those you love. By 11:27 on Friday, God will already have been healing and inspiring, offering and nudging, calling and forgiving, comforting and redeeming you and renewing the whole world for hours and hours. By 11:27 every single day for the rest of your life, God will have already been God, and God with you. So check the clock. It’s now 11:36. Look at all that has already been done. It’s 11:36, and God has already been awake for hours and hours. It’s 11:36, and this child is born for you. It’s 11:36, and this child has changed the world. It’s 11:36. What are you, children of God, going to do next?
Preached by Mother Erika Takacs
Christmas Day, 2016
Saint Mark's, Philadelphia