December 25, 2019
I’ve been humbled many times in my life, usually when I’ve done something stupid. But once in a while humility came to me before forces of nature, like standing before those giant redwood trees in northern California. In moments like that I realize just how small I am. It’s hard to describe those trees in words: immense, ancient, stately, mysterious, powerful. Their existence speaks of endurance and majesty where words fail; some have existed on this earth from a time before Jesus was born! From a seed no bigger than a tomato seed these trees will grow to a height of over 300 feet. Imagine a 30-story skyscraper here in Portage/Briggsville and you have an inkling of just how tall that would be.
You would think that a 300-foot-tall tree would need equally deep roots to keep it stable, but that's not the case at all. Redwood tree roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep, extending out 100 feet from the trunk, intertwining and even fusing together with roots of other redwoods and other plants. This is what gives the trees such tremendous strength against the forces of nature century after century. Reflecting on the redwood trees have given me a new image of what we celebrate today.
This morning we celebrate the Incarnation, when Christ, the Word of God that brought all of creation into being, came to dwell among us. In an instant of unfathomable wisdom, God chose to become human. Not in power and earthly authority but as a baby boy born in the quiet, sleepy village of Bethlehem. A birth announced, not to the kings and the queens of the world, but to unnamed shepherds in the fields.
Yet, this fragile child-God became a towering force in the world, standing above and beyond any other human being that has and ever will exist. Soring over and above any other living creature that has or ever will be. Emerging over time as The Divine power on this earth.
And yet this powerful force, this redeemer of humankind, this Son of God needs us as much as a redwood needs its roots. We, my friends, are those roots of that Christ-presence in the world. From that first night, when the shepherds made known the message that had been told them about this child and all who heard it were amazed by what they had been told, the story took root. Slowly at first, one story built upon another, intertwined with other stories over the years of Jesus’ love and forgiveness and grace and peace, woven together with wisdom and kindness and promise, that story of salvation merged with our stories of life - our loves, our failures, our joys and our sorrows, our hopes, our disappointments.
We call this wonderful system of roots the People of God, the family of faith, the Church. We are all part of it; each and every one of us. As church we intertwine our stories of forgiveness and love with each other’s; we reach out in compassion sharing the very grace of Christ by our kindness and charity, each of us doing our part to proclaim what it is we celebrate on this morning.
The interconnectedness of the roots of the redwood reminds us of what God asks of each of us on this Christmas morning, that the Incarnate Word needs us to do our part to make his presence known in every corner of our lives. We have the responsibility to share Christ’s love with one another, to keep the Story of God’s salvation alive in this world.
Every time we gather at this altar we are reminded of that privilege and responsibility. Every time we celebrate Mass we are bonded more tightly to one another so that together the Word made flesh will continue to withstand the storms of time that prevail against it. Together we are called to sustain Presence of Christ- even as the Real Presence of Christ feeds us. A Presence that all began on one quiet night with the birth of a child some 2000 years ago. Like a seed of a redwood silently sprouting in the forest just waiting for its roots to bring its story to life.