Merry Christmas!

If you’ve said it someone today, say it again! And say it again tonight. And tomorrow. And for as long as you can.

In fact, make this moment one when you begin to make every moment, every day, Christmas.

Remind yourself and everyone you know that Jesus is being born — not just on December the 25th.

My friend, the writer and editor Elizabeth Scalia, tells the story of jazz great Duke Ellington, who was well-known among his friends for sending Christmas cards all year round — no matter the day or season. A friend of his remembered, “Duke sent them whenever the spirit moved him.”

People would receive Christmas greetings in April or June or August. And why not?

The beautiful gift of Christmas, the real meaning of it, is that it never really ended.

The Incarnation didn’t just happen in a stable in Bethlehem one night long ago.

It’s going on. Here. Now. Everywhere.

Jesus is coming into our world in quiet acts of love and devotion and humility and trust.

You will find Jesus in a resident at a hospice center this morning, gazing out the window to see a world he realizes now he so often took for granted.

He is the nurse quietly, selflessly, caring for that man and so many others on Christmas morning.

Look for Jesus.

Mother Teresa said Jesus often comes to us in the distressing disguise of the poor. Jesus is the man I met outside FastBreak last week named Gordon, who told me he lives in the Bronx but comes to Queens to ask for food or money or companionship or prayers. I bought him a sandwich and gave him a blessing and I thought he was going to cry.

Jesus is found also in moments of uncontainable joy. Look for him! Jesus is new parents, overwhelmed by the beauty of life — people like my friends John and Nicole, who 13 days ago welcomed their first baby on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They named their new daughter Rose.

Jesus is closer than we may realize. Look around you! He is here in this glorious church, present in the Word, and the Eucharist, and in each of us who are called, as one of my favorite hymns puts it, to “ponder anew what the Almighty can do.”

For weeks, we have cried out, “O come, o come Emmanuel.” We have called for God to be with us.

Well, here we celebrate that great “joy to the world”: the Lord has come! God is with us!

You and I are part of the ongoing miracle of God entering human history

The reading this morning contains this famous declaration from St. John’s Gospel:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

That doesn’t tell the half of it.

That was written in the past tense. But he dwells among us. Our God lives in the present tense — he listens to us, hopes with us, perseveres with us, again and again.

And he not only became flesh, he becomes flesh.

He becomes flesh every time we receive him in the Eucharist, every time we receive his Word in our hearts, every time we carry him with us into the world and seek to “glorify the Lord with our lives.”

St. Teresa of Avila famously said that Jesus has no hands or feet today but ours.

Christmas reminds us of that. When he comes into our world, when he is born within us, we in fact become his instruments.

I think Duke Ellington would appreciate that.

Most who knew Duke Ellington will tell you he wasn’t a saint. But he had a beautiful sense of the sacred. He even offered what he called “sacred concerts” in the later years of his life.

He understood something the rest of us often forget, something we need to embrace, especially today:

Christmas is always coming.

My friend Elizabeth Scalia wrote about Ellington:

“For him, the Christ was always on his way, or newly arrived. In troubling himself to hand-write his messages, Ellington was demonstrating profound intention and consent; the lucky acquaintance who opened Ellington’s Christmas cards in April, or July, or October, was hearing a message not so far removed from the song of the angels: You have been thought of; you have been brought forth with intention; you have been seen, and heard, and listened to; you have been loved. And Christ is coming. And Christ is here, where love is.”

And she adds: “This is the message of Christmas, but the great secret is that it is the message of our every day, too.”

So, Joy to the World, the Lord is come.

“Let heaven and nature sing…repeat, repeat the sounding joy…“

Not just today. But every day.

Merry Christmas!