Humility & Simplicity – Fr. Tom Tank

Fr. Tom Tank’s Homily December 25, 2020

“Today is born our savior, Christ the Lord. That responsorial psalm in a sense summarizes this whole feast for today, present among us is our savior, Jesus who is Christ the Messiah, who is Lord, God for truly we come to celebrate the great gift of our salvation as the word becomes flesh in that babe of Bethlehem and what a tremendous mystery this is this mystery for God’s love for us manifested in such a simple human way as in a babe born of the virgin Mary, a babe born not in splendor, but in squalor, a babe who comes to identify with our humanity in all it’s messiness. Recently I heard a song, it was a country western song, but it was about the birth of Christ and the words were, ‘what a strange way to redeem humanity.’ It’s an interesting line. What a strange way to redeem humanity that God set about to redeem all of us from our sin and to bring us to a new life, but he didn’t do so with human power and glory, but rather in simplicity and humility, in poverty. 

We go to Bethlehem once again to reflect upon that scene in the stable of Jesus and Mary and Joseph and the angels and the shepherds. We come to recognize Christ in the messiness of that stable. I think sometimes we kind of sanitize Christmas a little bit too much when you look at a stable and the nativity scene, it’s all beautiful. All the figures are nice and they’re painted well and everything looks so nice and together. It wasn’t that way. That was a dirty old stable. There was muck all over the ground. That straw was probably not the freshest in the world. Jesus came into the messiness of our human life and he comes into the messiness of our human life and he comes into the messiness of the life that may be in each one of us, but he comes to redeem. He comes to transform. He comes to change. He doesn’t come with power and glory because he doesn’t want us to be controlled, but rather to be transformed to become ever new people transformed by the gift of the mystery of his love for us. That is the message for Christmas to encounter the very living presence of Christ. Yes, born into the poverty of that stable of Bethlehem, but still present to us today.

Sometimes I think we make Christmas a little too nostalgic. We think of it in terms of nice feelings and all the decorations and all the things like that and I like nostalgia, no question about that, but Christmas is so much more than nostalgia. It is a present reality. We celebrate the present reality of Christ coming to us in humility and simplicity today not as that babe in that straw of Bethlehem, but rather within the very simplicity of the Eucharist which we share that what appears as mere bread and wine, truly his body and blood. Yes, it requires faith to recognize Christ there, but it also took faith for Joseph and for Mary and for the shepherds to recognize in Jesus something more than what appeared on the surface, to truly see the God incarnate in human flesh and so for us we are called to faith to recognize in what is so humble and simple as what appears as bread and wine truly the very presence of God become flesh, Jesus, Messiah and Lord. Christmas is not something we celebrate as a past event, but rather as a present reality and we come to this Eucharist in order to be touched by the saving grace of our God. How blessed we are. We are invited to ponder with Mary who kept all these things reflecting upon them in her heart. We are called to ponder the reality of Christ who comes among us in the poor and the needy and the gift of each other and in a very special way in the Eucharist that we share.
And today as I was preparing for this celebration of Christmas, I couldn’t but think of Fr. Charles who’s not with us physically now, but is with us in spirit and I thought about how appropriate it might be to share one of his little prayers and so in the spirit of Fr. Charles I have a little prayer to share with you, it’s called Hidden Jesus.

‘Sometimes the greatest things
Come disguised without fanfare
You can miss them easily
You have to watch and deeply care

Like long ago on a quiet night
In a humble shepherd’s cave
An event occurred which no one knew
The world from death would save

Jesus savior of the world
Born in poverty
King of kings and Lord of lords
Hidden in obscurity

There were no royal tramplings there
Your courtiers were sheep
Your royal bed was made of straw
The goats sang you to sleep

You appeared in infant’s clothes
The mystery we assess
Son of God yet human too
You are the word made flesh

Mary hold you in her arms
Joseph is beguiled
Though you are the son of God
You look just like any child

Don’t let us miss your presence now
In word and in the poor
You are here in Eucharist
With us evermore

You come to us in others too
You come in great disguise
Your presence give to us O Lord
Faith in disguise

Hidden Jesus in disguise
Help us see you more
We bring to you our trust and love
We prostrate and adore

We bring to you our trust and love
We prostrate and adore’”