Project Description



Why are you here tonight?

Maybe it’s a family tradition.

Maybe it was a last minute impulse.

Maybe it’s because you get to sing in the choir—

or get to serve in some other—


Or maybe you recognize there’s just

something special about Midnight Mass.


Some have come alone—

Some have come with families—

Some have come with friends.


For whatever reason—

And regardless of our differences—

Underneath it all—

we are very much the same—

and we have all come for the same reason.


We have all experienced both tremendous joys

and deep pains in life. . . .


We have all experienced luminous light

and dark darkness. . . .


We have all experienced

thrills beyond compare and

disappointments so bitter that

the taste is never completely washed away. . . .


Because of the mountains and

the valleys of the human journey that we have

experienced both individually and collectively—


We here are in solidarity—

we have human souls that yearn. . . .


In our finitude we reach out to the

Mysterious cosmos wanting something more—

something more.

There’s always that human

yearning for something more:


New beginnings—

Restored relationships—

Reunion with lost loved ones. . . .


A yearning for a joyful future—

for yearning for justice for us—

and all God’s children.


A yearning for

true peace—

and harmony—

and fulfillment—

and meaning. . . .


a yearning for transcendence.


That’s really why we’re really here.


So this Midnight Mass is not just

a celebration of a Virgin Mother and Child—


No, it’s something much more.


It’s a celebration of the divine—

of an all-powerful—

of an all loving being. . . .


breaking into our topsy-turvy world—

breaking into our chaos and into our carnival—

breaking into our reservations and into our confidences.


It’s a celebration of Transcendence itself

inserting Himself into our reality.


That’s why we’re here.


Whether we can articulate that or not—

Whether its conscious or subconscious—

Whether it’s implicit or explicit—


We are yearning for Jesus—

Who is both totally Other—

and totally us,


Who is—


the only One who can fulfill

that something more that we all crave.


And who comes as a Baby so

we know He’s safe to approach—

so he can draw us in.


We’re all looking for Jesus.


The great Protestant preacher

Fredrick Buechner tells of the time when

he was in Rome and wanted to witness

the wonder and awe of

Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s


The enormous Basilica was packed

with pilgrims from all over the world.


Most showing up hours before hand to get a seat—


Staring up into Michelangelo dome . . .


and staring at Bernini’s huge gold and bronze

baldacchino towering over the altar where

the sacrifice of the mass would take place. . . .


and staring up at the acres of

the beautiful mosaics of saints.


Occasionally the congregation would break

out in Christmas songs as

they awaited the beginning of the Mass.


And finally—

after several hours of waiting—

there all of a sudden a hush of the crowd.


And in the distance Buechner

could see that the Swiss Guard had

entered St. Peter’s with the golden

throne on their shoulders.


The crowds pressed in toward the aisle

So they could see to the procession as

it made its way forward.


What Buechner remembered most he said,

is Pope Pius XII—

especially his eyes.


The Pope was aging—

reaching the end of earthly journey—

and Buechner concentrated on Pope Pius XII’s face—

which is still etched in his memory.


Buechner described the Pope’s face as lean and ascetic—


with the high-bridged beak of a nose,

and his glasses glittering in the candlelight.


And as Pius XII passed by Buechner—

the Pope was leaning slightly forward and

peering into the crowd with

extraordinary intensity.


Through the thick lenses of his glasses—

his eyes appeared larger than life. . .


and the Pope peered right into Buehner’s face—

and into all the faces around him—

and into all the faces behind him—


with a look so keen and

so charged that Buechner could not escape the

feeling that the Pope must be looking

for someone in particular.


He was not nodding nor

Was he smiling to acknowledge the

enthusiasm of the crowd.


He was a man whose face seemed gray with waiting,

whose eyes seemed huge and

exhausted with searching,

for some one,

some one,

who he thought might be there

that night or any night—



but whom he had never found—

and yet he kept looking.


Face after face he searched for the

face that he knew he would know. . .


Was it this one?

Or was it that one?


Searching. . . .



And then Pius XII passed on out of Buechner’s sight.


Buechner said it was a powerful

moment in his life.


A moment that has often

thought about and meditated on.


Buechner knew whom the

Pope was looking for.


And he felt that anyone else who

was really watching must also have known.


He was looking for the face of the Messiah—

The Christ—

Who is both totally Other—

and totally us.


Looking for the face that we all yearn to see.


And of course,

Buechner realized,

that the old Pope had surely

seen glimpses of His face.


We have all—


Seen glimpses that is.


Seen those glimpses in the

other who have come just at the right time—


Seen those glimpses

in the comforting voice of a friend—


In an uncanny coincidence—


In the poor and the suffering—


In the Eucharist.


We have all seen glimpses—

in a small flicker of light in our darknesses. . . .


in a moment of transcendence breaking into finite reality.


Buechner writes:

“The one we [are] looking for was there then. . . .

as he is here now

because he haunts the world.”


“It may well be a post-Christian age

that we are living in,

but I cannot think of an age that

in its own way has looked with more

wistfulness and fervor toward

the ghost at least of Christ.”


This Christmas,

whether we realize it or not—

God will be born among us.


And until the end of the age when

We will his see his face fully and clearly—


When His work will become fully manifest—


When we experience fully—


His true peace—

and harmony—

and justice—

and fulfillment—

and meaning—


and transcendence

that we all yearn for.

That we re all searching for.


But when we get those glimpses—

We can say:


“God is here. . . .                     (Last line “God is here. . .”from Kate Bowler in an essay in The Washington Post)

We are loved. . . .

And that is enough.”


Holy Spirit 2019