Fr. William Grimm, MM, reflects on how we are called to be the 'word of God' for the world.
Why on Christmas Day don’t we hear the story of the birth of Jesus?
Let’s think about stories. There are bedtime stories. There is prime-time television in our homes. Story telling is something we do at night.
Daytime requires something different. Daytime is when we take the message of the story and act upon it. So, on Christmas Eve we had the story; on Christmas Day we have the meaning: ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us.’
One advantage of learning new languages is that we learn new words and through them learn new things about the world and ourselves. Like every human being, I have a poignant, and in English inexpressible, feeling of mourning, longing, nostalgia and peace regarding people, places, and things in my past that can never be regained. But, until I learned that there is a single Japanese word for that feeling, natsukashii, I couldn’t really grasp it for myself, nor could I be sure it was anything more than a personal neurosis.
In English we use the word ‘word’ in an interesting way. One of the highest forms of praise we can give is, ‘He’s a man of his word.’ On the other hand, ‘She doesn’t keep her word,’ is one of the worst condemnations we can make. If I say, ‘You can take my word for it,’ I expect to be believed and am insulted if I am not. My word is equivalent to myself. If I give my word, a violation of that word is a selling out of my self, my soul.
And today we celebrate the fact that ‘the Word became flesh and lived among us.’ What might that mean?
The Word whose story we told last night tells us something about the universe in which we live: ‘God so loved the world that he sent the Son to be our savior.’ We live in a world loved by God. And not only a world loved by God – we, each of us, is loved beyond measure by God. It is a world of pain, confusion, suffering, and death, but it is also the world where we meet God.
Like realizing new ways to see myself, the coming of the Word made flesh shows me that I am called to be more than I might otherwise think. The Son became one of us that we might become sons and daughters of God. And the coming of the Word affirms that the deepest longings of our hearts for love, life, and peace are not empty dreams. These longings have a divine answer, and therefore are precious.
This is the meaning of Christmas. The decorations, the gifts, the songs, the food and all the rest are good, but the reason for them all is not simply the birth of a baby a couple thousand years ago. Today we remember and celebrate the fact that we can know God’s glory and power not as some sort of information, but as a person.
Knowing him, we shape our lives in accord with that Word, hearing the words of the Son and obeying them. Even more, it means living in such a way that we, too, become the word of God for the world.
So on Christmas Day we move from the story to the program, from what happened long ago to our vocation today.
It’s a big order. Can we be the word of God for the world? Can we be the means for others to understand who God is and what our destiny is as the beloved ones of God? Can we speak words that will make real for them the love of God, the forgiveness of God, the hope of God?
Yes, we can. We have God’s Word for it.
Fr. William Grimm, MM, is on mission in Japan. This reflection was published in Fr. Grimm’s book, “Dialogue of One: Homilies for Sundays and Feasts in Years A, B, and C” (2019). It is republished here with permission.