Homily for January 1, 2015: Reflecting on God’s Time

Luke 2: 16-21

New Years Eve (day) is something special and intimate, standing at the cusp of the old year, leading to the new, with a focus on reflection and more than anything, on God’s Time.

                 Gospel Summary

 Today’s gospel text tells us that the shepherds “went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger”. They did this because they had a vision of angels who told them, “This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”. The shepherds are taken out of their workaday worlds and asked to see their lives in a new and wonderful way.

They are told that they will find an “infant wrapped in swaddling clothes”, that is, wrapped in warm flannel. This shows us the profound symbolism of this passage. The flannel bands represent God’s loving care which is shown to us in the coming of Jesus as our Savior. In a very real sense, we can say that God has wrapped the whole world in secure and loving bands by sending his beloved Son to us with an example and a message of endless loving kindness.

“Mary”, we are told, “kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”. ‘All these things’ embrace the whole wonderful experience of bearing a child who is already destined to change the course of human history in ways that will be revealed only later–in ways that will involve both painful self-sacrifice and glorious victory.

                Life Implications

The beginning of a new year is opportunity to reflect on the special gift of time. We think back on all the events of the previous year, both in our personal lives and in the world, and we get a chance to express our gratitude for all the good things that have happened, all the while being aware that there have also been sad and painful and perhaps frightening realities. But most of all, we celebrate the promise of a new set of months and we try to be hopeful in spite of threats of war and recession and just growing older.

Today’s gospel has a special message for us as, with mixed feelings, we hang the new calendar. The fresh new year is in some ways like the infant Jesus “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger”. Both seem so vulnerable; but the power of the Almighty God is hidden in the new year, just as it is in that tiny infant.   God is fully prepared to wrap our fragile lives and hopes in the warm blanket of his ever present and constant love.

With that kin of assurance, we can face the future with generous hope and with light hearts; because we, too, need to realize that the angels who spoke to the shepherds are speaking also to us when they say, “This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

Happy New Year!

(Demetrius R. Dumm, O.S.B.)

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