The Nativity of the Lord (Mass During the Night)
December 25, 2022
You can find a video of this homily on my website page for my upcoming series, The Greatest Gift: The Eucharist at www.renewaloffaith.org/greatestgift (scroll down on that page to find the video).
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”
Israel was being overrun by their enemies. Many were taken away in exile to Babylon. They lived in darkness and gloom. God would bring them light. God would set them free.
We live in a troubled world today. There is war, violence, and hatred. We come seeking light in the darkness.
God had allowed the Israelites’ enemies to defeat them because the Israelites had sinned. This is the “yoke that burdened them.” We are burdened by sin today.
God has a remedy for sin. “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.” In Jesus, “The grace of God has appeared, saving all.”
The birth of Jesus is a wonderful thing. We celebrate it in part by giving gifts to those we love. Most importantly, we celebrate Christmas by coming here and recalling what Christmas is all about, the gift of Jesus.
Mary was pregnant with Jesus living with her husband Joseph in Nazareth. A census was called. This would mean they would need to go “to the city of David that is called Bethlehem.”
It might seem like rotten timing. Mary is due at any time. Who would want to travel then? Yet, the prophecies had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. God is in control.
Indeed, while they were in Bethlehem, “the time came” for Mary to give birth. With people travelling for the census, “there was no room for them in the inn.” Thus, Jesus was born among the animals as depicted in our nativity scene. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in the manger.
One might expect a glorious setting for the birth of the Messiah. This was not but it was what God intended. I encourage you to spend some time looking at the nativity scene. See how Jesus humbled himself for you.
There was no room in the inn for Jesus. Do you have room in your heart for Jesus?
Who were the first to be invited to see the newborn king? It was not royalty. It was simple shepherds who were the first to hear the “good news of great joy…For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”
Jesus “gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness.” Yes, He “gave himself for us.” The gift of Christmas is the gift of Jesus.
Recognizing the gift, we are called “to reject godless ways and worldly desires.”
Recognizing the gift that Jesus is should lead us to come every week. At Christmas we celebrate the gift of his birth. There is more.
Why was Jesus born? To give his life for us on the Cross so that our sins might be forgiven. He gives us new life in the Resurrection. Baby Jesus was laid in a manger. A manger is a food trough for animals. He gives us his very own Body and Blood to feed our souls for He says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
Jesus gives himself to us in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the greatest gift. Unfortunately, it is forgotten by many what the Eucharist truly is.
It is not just bread and wine.
To remind us of what the Eucharist is, the United States bishops have begun a three-year Eucharistic Revival. I firmly believe this revival is critical to our future. Knowing all that we receive in the Eucharist will lead us to come to Mass every Sunday.
To help people understand the Eucharist as the Greatest Gift, starting in January, I will be offering a series of three presentations. The dates and times are in the bulletin. (see www.renewaloffaith.org/greatestgift)
Each presentation will be around an hour in length for a total of three hours. I won’t talk that long today. I offer only the briefest of summaries now.
The Eucharist is not just bread and wine. The bread and wine are changed into Jesus’ Body and Blood. I can’t explain how except that the Holy Spirit is invoked in the consecration. I don’t have to know how. I believe it because Jesus says so. At the Last Supper, He took the bread and said This is my Body. He then took the chalice and said, the blood of my new and eternal covenant.
There is more. When we celebrate the Eucharist, we are celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross for us. How do we know this? Because Jesus said, “This is my Body which will be given up for you…the blood which will be poured out for you.
When is Jesus’ body given up for us? When is his blood poured out for us? On the Cross. In saying these words, Jesus brings together the Eucharist and his Crucifixion.
It doesn’t end there!
If it ended in the Crucifixion, it might seem like defeat. There is more! On the third day Jesus rose. In the Eucharist as the bread that comes down from Heaven, He gives us eternal life.
When you come forth to receive Communion four words are said to you as the minister holds up the host. Four short but very powerful words, The Body of Christ.
Your response is “Amen.” The word “amen” does not mean thank you. It has profound significance because the word “amen” means “I believe.”
When you respond “amen”, it is to say I believe it is the Body of Christ.
It is Jesus we receive. It is Jesus who gives his life for us on the Cross. It is Jesus who leads us to the Resurrection.
The Eucharist is the Greatest Gift given at the first Easter. First, Jesus had to be born. His birth is a gift.
Today, we rejoice with “abundant joy and great rejoicing” at the “good news of great joy” proclaimed by the angel, “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”