Welcome to all our guests and visitors. My name is Fr. Michael Denk. I am one of the associates here. On behalf of our pastor Fr. Paul Rosing, Fr. Andy Gonzales, and our staff, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas. We are so glad you trekked here through the snow. Thank you for being with us to celebrate this Christmas morning.
One of the things I love about Christmas time is watching old classic Christmas movies. What I would like to hear is what is your favorite Christmas movie? Can you guys give me a couple of examples? Just raise your hands, and I will point. You can shout it out, and tell me your favorite Christmas movie.
The Nativity Story. A Christmas Story. That is a classic 24 hours a day. It’s a Wonderful Life. That is such a beautiful and wonderful movie. Miracle on 34th Street. Another classic. We have so many good Christmas movies. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. That is a classic one, same household. Very good.
My all-time, new favorite Christmas movie is Elf. You have probably seen Buddy the Elf on TV. I thought, as I was watching that movie, that it would be really cool if Buddy the Elf came to our parish at Holy Family in Stow. So, I am crossing my fingers that Buddy the Elf will show up right now. There he is. Alright. Let us give him a round of applause. Hi Buddy, how are you? You’re lost? Oh, you were trying to get to New York City. That is right, but you ended up in Stow. Was it a hard journey for you? It was a long hard journey for you. “I traveled through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, past the sea of twirly-swirly gum drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.” All Buddy the Elf was trying to do was find his father. He only knew that he had to get to New York City to find him. He had to travel through all these adventures, and he ended up in Stow, Ohio. Buddy, thank you for coming to Stow. If you see our pastor, Fr. Paul, tell him hello because he would hate to miss you. I want to talk a little bit about Buddy’s great adventure and how that relates to Christmas. Thank you, Buddy, for coming
In the movie, in case you have not seen Elf, Buddy the Elf is a human, and he is dropped off as a baby at the North Pole. He begins to become an adult and realizes that he is a human. He is eight feet tall, and he is with all these elves. Up to this point, it has not occurred to him that he is not one of them. His father figure, who is one of the elves in the story, says to him, “Buddy, I hate to tell you, but you are human.” He is devastated by this news. He discovers next that he has a father and that his father lives in New York City. The older elf gets him a snow globe. He shakes it up and says, “This is New York City. If you want to find your father, that is where you need to go.” That was all Buddy knew. All he knew was that he had to go to New York City. He goes, as you heard, through Candy Cane Lane and ends up in the Lincoln Tunnel. From there he gets to New York City.
I don’t know if any of you have been to New York City? Walked around? It is a huge city. It is a hard city to try to find things if you are coming from the North Pole. They are not used to that. He finally finds his father but he has to take an amazing journey to get there. What I love about Buddy the Elf is that he is so filled with wonder and awe. Every challenge that he gets to is something that he faces creatively. He just finds a way to work through the challenge. It is like this built-in courage that he has. He can go through any situation to find his father. All he knew was that he had to get to New York City.
In our gospel and our story of the Nativity, St. Joseph is given some commands by the angel. He is told things that he has to do. The commands are very simple. One is “do not be afraid to take Mary into your home.” That is all the angel says to him. The angel does not tell him any more to do than that. You guys know what it is like, right? It is an adventure to take a mother and child into your home. The second thing he is told is “go to Bethlehem.” Joseph has no idea what to expect there. So, he goes to Bethlehem, and it is during this time of the census. He gets to Bethlehem and all the rooms in the inn are filled. The angel did not say to him, “By the way, there is going to be no room for you in Bethlehem.” He goes and he gets there, and he finds a place for Jesus to be born in a stable. Later in the journey, we hear that the angel tells him to go to Egypt. So, he goes to Egypt. The interesting thing is that all had to be figured out.
This year we are celebrating the year of St. Joseph. Our Holy Father declared that all year long we are going to celebrate St. Joseph. He has asked us to pay attention to St. Joseph as a father figure. He wrote a letter. It is only about eight pages long and if you want to read it, it is beautiful. He describes St. Joseph in different chapters. In one chapter he will describe the Merciful Father. The other chapter will describe the Obedient Servant. Another chapter, Chase Spouse. My favorite chapter is when he says, “Joseph is one of creative courage.” He is one of creative courage. In Bethlehem, for example, the angel appears to him and says, “Go to Bethlehem.” That is all he says. Joseph has to take his nine-month pregnant wife on a donkey, travel to Bethlehem, and find that there is no room in the inn. He has to find a place for the baby to be born. He finds a stable. Notice, all of this is very creative. Joseph just had to figure it out, and he did so with great courage. He took these leaps for God when he had no idea what to expect
Just as Buddy the Elf had the courage and creativity to get to New York, Joseph had to be creative and find a way to Bethlehem. You all had to find a way to be creative to get to mass this morning. It was a great adventure to go through the snow to get here. The truth is, in life, we are all called to this creative courage. In life, God does not always spell out the whole picture for us. He does not tell us every single thing to do. He gives us a direction and then we have to creatively and courageously find a way to make this work out. You have all seen this in the pandemic, right? We are facing a really difficult experience that no one has ever been through in this age, and we have to creatively and courageously find a way to go through it.
What I love about Buddy the Elf and what I love about St. Joseph is that when they experience these situations that were difficult, the response was not despair. The response was not agitation or frustration. The response was not an overwhelmed, “How am I going to get through this?” The response was a creative courage that God has given me the ability and the direction to face the challenges of life.
My dear brothers and sisters, you have had the creative courage to come here today in Stow, Ohio. You made it here, and the most amazing thing will happen in just a few moments. On this very altar, Jesus will be born. This is like being there for the Nativity. Being there in Bethlehem – only now in Stow, Ohio, he comes to us. Then, as we receive him and go out into the world, we are not going to know exactly what is going to come into our lives or what challenges we may face. But, like St. Joseph, we can face them with creative courage. Remember this the next time you are challenged, frustrated or upset, or overwhelmed by whatever the pandemic may bring to us. We can face it with creative courage because Jesus is working in us and through us and with us.
Let us rejoice. Let us be glad. Let us celebrate this wonderful feast of Christmas because we know that within us, he can also give us that creative courage.