Tonight we hear the story, the same one this year as last. It is the story of a birth in a dark cold night among strangers. The promise of the story has been kept again this year: it has pulled us out of the darkness and into the warmth of a new light.
Whatever the past year has brought us - pain and doubt and fear, rejoicing and dying and birthing, good fortune or bad - it has not broken the power and the promise of this story to bring us together again. The story gives us just enough courage and hope on this night to pray for peace, to stand close to those who love us, and to confess that there is more to our living than we understand.
What we do not understand tempts us to say that this story of a man and woman - of two people finding each other and making a home for more than their love - is an accident. But hope rising in us on the darkest of nights, in the coldest of circumstances, even among strangers, leads us to believe that this story, like our own stories, is not an accident but a promise kept.
Here and there, in all our lives, things do go as they were meant, people love as they intend, suffering and evil do not win. The power of this story is the promise kept, that even in a dark place on a cold night among strangers, a new birth is possible. For Mary and Josephus then, for us now, and again.
Father Bryce moved on to another parish shortly after delivering this homily, I believe in 1995, and has since retired. I ask his forgiveness for taking the liberty to post his beautiful words. I cried then and each time I read it. After hearing his homily I asked the church secretary for a copy and take it out each year at Christmas along with the ornaments, wreaths, and stockings. Each year I forget I have it then remember it when we unpack the decorations. I cried the moment I saw it this year.
And I hope, whatever you personal beliefs of Christmas, as we pass through the long night and the stillness of winter here in the Northern Hemisphere, we can all share the hope that new birth always will triumph over death.