Why are you here tonight?
Maybe it’s a family tradition.
Maybe it was a last minute impulse.
Maybe it’s because you get to sing in the choir—
or get to serve in some other—
Or maybe you recognize there’s just
something special about Midnight Mass.
Some have come alone—
Some have come with families—
Some have come with friends.
For whatever reason—
And regardless of our differences—
Underneath it all—
we are very much the same—
and we have all come for the same reason.
We have all experienced both tremendous joys
and deep pains in life. . . .
We have all experienced luminous light
and dark darkness. . . .
We have all experienced
thrills beyond compare and
disappointments so bitter that
the taste is never completely washed away. . . .
Because of the mountains and
the valleys of the human journey that we have
experienced both individually and collectively—
We here are in solidarity—
we have human souls that yearn. . . .
In our finitude we reach out to the
Mysterious cosmos wanting something more—
There’s always that human
yearning for something more:
Reunion with lost loved ones. . . .
A yearning for a joyful future—
for yearning for justice for us—
and all God’s children.
A yearning for
and meaning. . . .
a yearning for transcendence.
That’s really why we’re really here.
So this Midnight Mass is not just
a celebration of a Virgin Mother and Child—
No, it’s something much more.
It’s a celebration of the divine—
of an all-powerful—
of an all loving being. . . .
breaking into our topsy-turvy world—
breaking into our chaos and into our carnival—
breaking into our reservations and into our confidences.
It’s a celebration of Transcendence itself
inserting Himself into our reality.
That’s why we’re here.
Whether we can articulate that or not—
Whether its conscious or subconscious—
Whether it’s implicit or explicit—
We are yearning for Jesus—
Who is both totally Other—
and totally us,
the only One who can fulfill
that something more that we all crave.
And who comes as a Baby so
we know He’s safe to approach—
so he can draw us in.
We’re all looking for Jesus.
The great Protestant preacher
Fredrick Buechner tells of the time when
he was in Rome and wanted to witness
the wonder and awe of
Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s
The enormous Basilica was packed
with pilgrims from all over the world.
Most showing up hours before hand to get a seat—
Staring up into Michelangelo dome . . .
and staring at Bernini’s huge gold and bronze
baldacchino towering over the altar where
the sacrifice of the mass would take place. . . .
and staring up at the acres of
the beautiful mosaics of saints.
Occasionally the congregation would break
out in Christmas songs as
they awaited the beginning of the Mass.
after several hours of waiting—
there all of a sudden a hush of the crowd.
And in the distance Buechner
could see that the Swiss Guard had
entered St. Peter’s with the golden
throne on their shoulders.
The crowds pressed in toward the aisle
So they could see to the procession as
it made its way forward.
What Buechner remembered most he said,
is Pope Pius XII—
especially his eyes.
The Pope was aging—
reaching the end of earthly journey—
and Buechner concentrated on Pope Pius XII’s face—
which is still etched in his memory.
Buechner described the Pope’s face as lean and ascetic—
with the high-bridged beak of a nose,
and his glasses glittering in the candlelight.
And as Pius XII passed by Buechner—
the Pope was leaning slightly forward and
peering into the crowd with
Through the thick lenses of his glasses—
his eyes appeared larger than life. . .
and the Pope peered right into Buehner’s face—
and into all the faces around him—
and into all the faces behind him—
with a look so keen and
so charged that Buechner could not escape the
feeling that the Pope must be looking
for someone in particular.
He was not nodding nor
Was he smiling to acknowledge the
enthusiasm of the crowd.
He was a man whose face seemed gray with waiting,
whose eyes seemed huge and
exhausted with searching,
for some one,
who he thought might be there
that night or any night—
but whom he had never found—
and yet he kept looking.
Face after face he searched for the
face that he knew he would know. . .
Was it this one?
Or was it that one?
Searching. . . .
And then Pius XII passed on out of Buechner’s sight.
Buechner said it was a powerful
moment in his life.
A moment that has often
thought about and meditated on.
Buechner knew whom the
Pope was looking for.
And he felt that anyone else who
was really watching must also have known.
He was looking for the face of the Messiah—
Who is both totally Other—
and totally us.
Looking for the face that we all yearn to see.
And of course,
that the old Pope had surely
seen glimpses of His face.
We have all—
Seen glimpses that is.
Seen those glimpses in the
other who have come just at the right time—
Seen those glimpses
in the comforting voice of a friend—
In an uncanny coincidence—
In the poor and the suffering—
In the Eucharist.
We have all seen glimpses—
in a small flicker of light in our darknesses. . . .
in a moment of transcendence breaking into finite reality.
“The one we [are] looking for was there then. . . .
as he is here now
because he haunts the world.”
“It may well be a post-Christian age
that we are living in,
but I cannot think of an age that
in its own way has looked with more
wistfulness and fervor toward
the ghost at least of Christ.”
whether we realize it or not—
God will be born among us.
And until the end of the age when
We will his see his face fully and clearly—
When His work will become fully manifest—
When we experience fully—
His true peace—
that we all yearn for.
That we re all searching for.
But when we get those glimpses—
We can say:
“God is here. . . . (Last line “God is here. . .”from Kate Bowler in an essay in The Washington Post)
We are loved. . . .
And that is enough.”
Holy Spirit 2019