Fr. George Smiga
December 25, 2013
Stella was eight years old. She was bright, funny, and relatively independent. But Stella hated one thing: she hated a thunderstorm. When the lightening flashed and the thunder crashed, Stella froze. She did not want to be alone. Now her parents knew this and tried to avoid any upcoming trouble. One day, they realized that a rather large storm was scheduled to pass over their home just about bedtime. They were hoping that they could keep Stella up until the storm was over, but the storm took its time, and it was growing late.
So finally, they said, “Stella, there’s big storm coming but it’s very late so why don’t you go upstairs and go to bed and we promise that we will not go to sleep until the storm is over. So you don’t need to be afraid because we will be right downstairs.”
Now Stella didn’t like this idea. But she was very tired. So she went up to bed and fell immediately to sleep.
KABOOM! The house shook with thunder.
Stella sat up in her bed and cried out, “Mommy! Daddy!”
Her mother ran up the stairs, held her, and said, “Yes, that was a loud one, but we’re right downstairs. I think the worst is over so go back to sleep.”
Her mother left. Stella lay down. But she did not go to sleep, because she didn’t think the storm was over. She was right.
Stella cried out again, “Mommy, Daddy!”
Her mother came up. “Yes, honey, that was louder than the first one. But we are still downstairs. And, remember, God is always with you, so you don’t need to be afraid.”
Stella knew that this was true. So she said okay and lay down again. Her mother left the room.
Stella sat up. “Help!” she said, “I’m afraid!”
This time her father came up. He held her. “Honey,” he said, “this is a really bad storm. But don’t be afraid because we’re right downstairs. And as your mom told you, God is always with you.”
Stella thought for a moment and then she said, “I know that God is always with me, but I need someone with skin on!”
Don’t we all? Don’t we all need someone with skin on? It is important that people love us, but don’t we need to be able to see that love, to hear that love, to touch that love. We need love with skin on.
God knows this. Centuries ago God revealed God’s self to Abraham and for centuries the Jewish people preserved their faith in a loving and forgiving God, in a God who saved them and freed them. But what you and I celebrate today as Christians is our belief that that same God became one of us.
The technical word for this is “Incarnation.” It is a Latin word which means that God took up human flesh, that God came in human skin. And God did that because God knows that we need love that we can see, hear, and touch. And now that Jesus has risen and at the right hand of the Father, that incarnate love of God is meant to continue in our human flesh. God’s love became human at Bethlehem, but we must make God’s love real today.
Therefore, it is appropriate on this Christmas day to be thankful for the people in our lives who have really loved us, who have loved us in a skin-like way: the people whose laughter we have heard; the people whose embrace we have felt; the people whose patience we have seen in their faces as they held their breath and bit their tongue for our benefit.
And if we have been loved in this real and human way are we not obliged to love others in a similar way? The message today is not only to be thankful for the people who have love us, but to ask, “Who are the people in my family and friends who I need to love? Who are the people who need to hear my voice of forgiveness and understanding; the people who need to see my face of welcoming and acceptance; the people who need to feel my touch of compassion?”
But it is even bigger than that. The birth of Christ tells us that we must love wider than just our circle of family and friends. The angel in today’s gospel announces that this child is to be joy for all people. So our love must extend to all people regardless of their race, background, or sexual orientation. The angels’ song tells us that this child is to bring peace to the earth. So our love must be an active love that fosters peace and combats injustice, poverty, ignorance, and oppression.
If this world is to become Christ’s world, if this world is to be a world of peace, we must do more than think of peace. We must do more than hope and pray for peace. We must work for peace. We must have some skin in the game to make a difference. As we celebrate God becoming incarnate, as we celebrate Christ’s birth, we must love as we have been loved. Jesus loved us with skin on. It is now up to us to let that love continue for ourselves, for our families, and for our world.