It’s what priests do, you know, when they are with those who are on the peripheries of society and family or friends are not available for whatever reason. We are called upon to “identify the body” at the mortuary. It’s a legal exercise. There are forms to fill out, IDs to be photocopied and put on record, signatures to be scrawled. I’m sure many of you have had the experience.
Jesus didn’t come to be born among us because we were all effervescent and nice and without the consequences of original sin such as sickness and death and suffering the aggression of others whilst we remain in exile on this earth and away from heaven (as we must hope). He came among us because of the violence and darkness and hell and, yes, death all around us and we ourselves dropping into the grave. He was born in a cave to be buried in a cave, and then rise and bring us to life.
So, does the visit to the mortuary become a downer, as is said, just before Christmas? Not at all. It instead puts an edge on Christmas. We know all the better by experience why it is that Jesus came among us. It’s an occasion to say:
Thank you Jesus for coming into this world amidst all of our death and destruction. Thank you for forgiving us and bringing us close to you, unto heaven. Thank you.