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Christmas 2012

How does love between two people begin? Love begins when two people meet, when they look at and set eyes on each other, when they see each other face to face. It may be either love at first sight or a love that slowly develops from the moment you see the other’s face.
You can “fall in love” with a voice on the radio or a cute cell phone text message but it’s incomplete until you see the face behind the voice or the message.  You can be fascinated with someone on Facebook but only if you’re sure his/her profile picture is real and not borrowed from Sam Milbey or Ann Curtis.  The face is an important factor in falling in love.
Today the angels tell the shepherds:  “you will see an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes.” 
This infant has a definite face.  It is the face of a loving and lovable God.  With the face of the infant in a Bethlehem cave, the unseen God of Israel ceases to be distant, unrecognizable or abstract. He is here with us, one with us, one of us.  He has a face we can not only see and admire, but touch and feel.  He is so close to us. This is the original and enduring meaning of Christmas.  God assumed a human face in Jesus Christ of Nazareth!  God became a human being like us!
When was the last time you really looked at a person’s face?  Some people look at the body and burn with lust.  Some people look at the wallet for what they can get. Some people look at titles trying to figure out how to use it for their advantage.  But the face, do we still look at each other’s faces with tenderness and awe?
At the Christmas table, let us look at each other again. Before going to sleep, look at your spouse and say “Merry Christmas, I love you.”  As they sleep, take notice of your children’s faces.  Look at your parents’ faces and the love they radiate. It’s Christmas, look at everyone with a smile, a nod or a greeting.  Look at the poor knocking on your door and don’t simply send them off with spare coins.
Today people look more at cell phones and Iphones than at people’s faces. Can we turn these gadgets off today and instead look at the face of people around us? In them we wont find a message or photo, for sure.  In these faces, we might  just really encounter the face of God.
We dramatize anger and strong emotions by making faces. And we do this as well by avoiding faces.  We tear up pictures.  Block fb accounts or turn our backs when we meet enemies in the street.  We refuse to speak, eat or pray with people we are angry with.  We avoid their faces. We evade their presence.
But when we do not anymore look at other people’s faces, then we destroy our own face.  For the face of the other reminds us who we are.
If we ignore a face, we ignore our own likeness.  Abortion is easy because the woman does not see the face of the murdered child.  Contraception is easy because we don’t imagine children’s faces but adjectives – burdensome, unnecessary, unwanted.  Law makers and politicians thrive on corruption because they focus not on the faces of the poor, but on money instead.
When the shepherds looked at the Baby Jesus, they also realized who they really were.  They were not mere mortals consigned to heavy labor by their poverty.  They were not outcasts in a society that values only power and prestige.  No, they, the shepherds, were lovely people saved by their God. They were very important!
Why did they feel that way?  It was because the Baby was also looking at them.  God appeared to them, as the second reading in Paul’s letter to Titus (2:11-14) tells us: “The grace of God has appeared.”  “The glory of the great God and of our Lord Jesus Christ” appeared. – The glory of God shone.  The face of God was looking at the poor and humble before him.  In God, the poor and suffering have a friend and a brother.
Do you feel alone even in the midst of a crowd?  Do you feel misunderstood even when you try to explain your side? Do you feel abandoned by the people you trusted most?  Do you think that your world is collapsing and that there is no more future?  Think again.  Tonight, Jesus is looking at you, with eyes full of understanding, compassion and commitment.  You are the reason he came down from heaven. 
When we sense that someone is looking at us with love and respect, we begin to grow in confidence.  We realize that we can still carry on full of hope.  The strongest assurance is that someone believes in us.
At Christmas time, God believes in you! Today and always, he looks at you!  Thank You Lord for showing me your face and for gazing at my face today.
There are faces we cannot forget and choose not to forget.  A few years ago, my friend lost his young son to illness.  This year I saw myself tagged on a Facebook photo.  It was of a birthday cake dedicated to his departed son’s 6th birthday.  He may not see his face anymore but he is sure he is looking down from heaven on his family on his birthday.
This year, I miss a wonderful face in this Christmas season.  My mother’s face was transformed from healthy to tired and worn-out in her battle with cancer.  She suffered a lot.  But moment before she died, she opened her eyes and stared at me.  I looked at her and pressed my face against her loving face.  That last look of a mother will always assure me I am loved and precious to someone.
Today it is not just any face we see, and not just any face that looks at us with great love. It is the face of Jesus, God made man.  He has appeared to give us peace, joy, healing and glory.  We see God face-to-face.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!