Readings from Mass during the Night
Psalm 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13, (Luke 2:11)
December 25, 2017
Today we celebrate something very special. It is so special that people come in great numbers. Some of you are here every week. Some are in town visiting. Some may be from neighboring parishes. Some are simply moved by what we celebrate today. Whatever category you fit in, we are very glad to have you with us.
What does draw us in large numbers today? After all, it is a busy time of year with so much to do. Why make Church part of the busyness?
I think some people are so tired of the busyness that they want to know there is “something more.” Why put up with the busyness? Is the busyness worth the effort?
The start of the answer to these questions is found in the name of this special time, Christmas. It begins with “Christ.” The word “Christ” means “messiah” or “anointed one.”
The Jews had waited a thousand years for the coming of a Messiah. Through times of darkness and gloom, the promise of a messiah was the source of hope for them, hope that they needed to endure sufferings.
We still need “hope” today. We live in a world where gloom is seen in acts of hatred and terrorism. The hatred brings darkness, darkness that blocks out God.
Where do we find “light” in the darkness?
Jesus is the light that brings hope. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies of a messiah and so much more.
The Jews expected a messiah who would be a political king like David and get rid of their enemies, the Romans. They expected a messiah who would be an ordinary human but also a great king just like David. What they got was, what we get is, the Son of God!
Never before had God come in this way. God had appeared at various times like the burning bush to Moses. God had done great signs for them in the parting of the Red Sea and, later, the Jordan River.
Isaiah wrote prophesying, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”
This is Jesus. He brings “abundant joy and great rejoicing.” So, Jesus’ birth is “good news of great joy…For today in the city of David, a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”
In the Old Testament times God watched over his people yet God could seem distant. No one had seen God face to face. God was among the “invisible” but in Jesus God becomes “visible.”
Jesus is fully human just like us yet Jesus is also fully divine, consubstantial with the Father (this alone is a mystery). As heir to the throne of David, he is king.
As king, one would expect him to be born in a palace, separated from the people. He was born in a stable and laid in a manger.
One would expect a king to be dressed in fine linens. At his birth, Jesus was dressed in “swaddling clothes.”
The first to visit a king would be royal figures. The first to visit Jesus were shepherds.
Why a stable? Why “swaddling clothes”? Why shepherds?
Our gospel story says, “the time came for her to have her child.” Taken at face value, this means it was time for Mary’s pregnancy to end and for Jesus to emerge visibly into the world.
Taken at a much deeper level, the phrase “the time came” signifies that it was now the point in God’s eternal plan for our salvation to come among us. No longer would God be a distant figure.
If Jesus had been born as a great king in a palace, dressed in fine linens, and visited only by royal figures, God might still seem distant and remote. God wants each and every one of us to have a personal relationship with him.
To make this possible, God chose to have Jesus born in a stable. Unlike a palace, the stable was accessible to all.
If Jesus had been dressed in fine linens, this would have said he was better than those who couldn’t afford such things.
The shepherds were considered a low cast. They were chosen to be the first to hear the “good news of great joy” that a “savior had been born” and to hear that he was born for them, not just the elite to say that Jesus is accessible to all.
What about the manger?
Do you know what a manger is? For most, if not all of us, the only time we use the word “manger” is describe where the baby Jesus laid. The word “manger” actually signifies a trough that animals eat out of. That means the manger had the food for the animals to eat. Jesus is the food that we need to strengthen us. Jesus feeds us in God’s Word and in the Eucharist we celebrate.
Jesus wants us to know him, to have a personal relationship with him. This can seem difficult to us, especially in a world where many people think we should put Jesus in a box and not talk about him. But it’s Christmas! His name is in the very word we call this holiday. Hearing the word “Christmas” leads us to think about him.
It can be hard to understand some of what the Bible says. It might seem hard to connect to Jesus. It takes effort. It takes openness. You show a desire to know Jesus by coming here today. Let this desire be alive in your heart. Read the Bible. Come to church. Enroll the young children in our faith formation classes. For middle schoolers and high schoolers, we have our youth groups. For adults, I try to do some sessions to help us better understand our faith more so that we can develop a relationship with Jesus.
It doesn’t happen overnight. It means coming here often. It takes effort but the effort isn’t all your own. The most important thing you can do is to open your heart to Jesus and he will lead you to the Father.
Today we celebrate with “abundant joy and great rejoicing” for “today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”