Single Christmas

12/25/96
Christmas Day
Lk 2:1-20

I want to talk about an obvious, but delicate matter. I do this with a degree of fear and trepidation, because I do not fully understand the situation about which I speak. Simply put, it is this. We have a lot of single adults in our parish. These are adults who by and large do not have children. Most of them do have, or have had, families and have been incorporated to some degree into the family as either an uncle or an aunt. It seems to me that Christmas must be particularly hard for the single folk. Preachers focus on the baby and on motherhood or parenthood. Retailers and relief agencies place most of their emphasis upon children and upon mothers and/or fathers with children.

What does this baby lying in a manger have to do with single adults? I know that when I was engaged, I really wasn’t interested in babies, and I wasn’t all that thrilled with them for ten years after I got married.

Perhaps the single person is like one of the Magi. He or she brings a special gift to the baby Jesus. It is the gift of perspective, of distance, of being divorced from the sentimentality and the emotional slush fund of responses that parents have. The single person can focus on the event of the Christ child.

In the course of time, in the on-going process of the universe, God made a significant change. God created an event that changed the course of history and both shaped and revealed the meaning of life. It took a star to market it. God’s event dwarfed the power and significance of politics and empires. God chose to become incarnate in a baby. God’s event kept contact with the history of His people, and it kept contact with His covenantal relationship with that people. But moreover, God created an event that fit with his own nature as both creator and redeemer. God chose to become incarnate in the baby of a young woman. Mary was not quite a single parent, but she was at the time unwed.

Now my mother-in-law has been widowed for twenty years. She is not a single adult, in the sense of never having had children, etc. But she does taste some of that isolation. In her old age she keeps asking: “Why am I here? What am I supposed to be doing? What is the meaning of all this?” These are questions of old age, and they are existential questions. They intrigue me because I think they pose the questions that single adults have. Without the trappings of family they are forced to ask, “What am I doing here? What is the meaning of all this?”

The answer is given in the event of Christmas. In the birth of Jesus God is saying that there is meaning in life. He is not estranged from our daily lives. Shepherds count as much as the Magi. God gives credence to our physical, mortal, lives. By an event of new birth, God tells us that in life there is meaning and there is always the concrete affirmation of new hope and new life. The wise men and the shepherds remind us that we are to spend our lives 1) worshipping God, 2) telling others about God and His great event(s), and 3) living out lives which reflect new birth and new life Ü this is done through love and through helping others.

This message of Christmas, which is to a great extent the message of the Gospel, is a world-changing message. It opposed Manicaeism, which saw life as a struggle between Good and Evil; it opposed the multi-gods theory of the Romans and Greeks. It opposed the strict Platonic idealism of the classical world. It opposed mithraism and blood sacrifice cults. It opposed the Essene asceticism of spirit is good and flesh is bad. It opposed, and still does, hedonism and materialism.

The message of the birth of a baby, of the incarnation of our Creator Redeemer God is a message of joy. It is a message of the hope for peace on earth good will towards men and women. The Christmas story is a story for adults and children, for individuals and for families. It is a story that says there is meaning and richness for you right now, here, today, in the event of Christ Jesus. Amen.