It was Christmas Eve many years ago, and a young mother was wrapping gifts to put under the family tree. Busy as she was, she asked her little boy to polish her shoes for the next morning's Christmas Mass. (That's what we used to do Saturday evenings at our house too!) So off he went to complete his task. He was gone awhile, but when he returned he was beaming with pride and presented the newly shined shoes to his mother. “What a wonderful shine!” she said, and then gave him a brand new quarter for working so hard and doing so well.
The next morning while she was dressing for church, she found something lodged in the toe of her shoe – something tiny wrapped in a crumbled piece of paper. Carefully she dug it out and unfolded the paper. Inside she found the very same quarter she had given her son the evening before. On the crumpled paper in his childlike writing were the words: “Dear Mommy, I done it for love!”
Dear people, that's why we're here in this Chapel this Christmas Eve. Because Jesus did it for love – all for love, only for love. So what more can we say besides “Thank you!” Thank you for becoming our brother, our mentor, our guide, our Shepherd, our hope and our joy. Thank you for taking on our human condition, with all our difficulties and challenges. Thank you for keeping your promise to be with us all the days of our lives. Thank you for making it so very clear that our only responsibility in life is to love, and to love well.
We hear many people today concerned about the legacy they leave behind after they die. Some consider their success in business to be their legacy. Some consider their accomplishments in the sports world to be their legacy. Some consider their accumulated wealth to be their legacy.
Some consider the trophies and awards earned in the entertainment world to be their legacy. Not Jesus! Jesus tells us that greatest legacy we can leave behind, the only legacy having eternal value, is the legacy of love.
A woman minister put it so simply: “I believe that what we have loved well in our short lives constitutes our legacy, and that we become who we are, with all our flaws and faults, because somebody, somewhere loved us and cared for us and sacrificed for us. I have loved some people, and some people have loved me, and that has saved my life.”
It all starts at the manger with a mother, her newly born child and a God who so deeply loves us that Jesus was sent to join our human family. Love is the legacy of Jesus. His legacy of love originates here at this manger, but it does not end there. The circle of love widens to embrace us with the wonderful relationships of family and friends. The circle of love grows through the good people we experience in our daily lives. We are here because God loves us. We are here because people love us. Despite our faults and shortcomings, God and people do love us!
Thank God for that love! Thank God for these people. Take a good look at the people sitting next to you here this evening. They are here because God gave them to you. You are here because God gave you to them. Welcome them warmly. Embrace them. Thank them for helping you develop your legacy of love, just as you help them develop their legacy of love.
Then we can all say and mean those profoundly simple words that little boy spoke to his mommy: “I done it for love!” AMEN!