Christmas is upon us. The word itself tells us much. This is the day and season during which the Mass we celebrate, our Eucharist, is specifically a celebration of thanksgiving for the coming of the Christ, God’s Chosen and Anointed One. Christ’s Mass!
Usually, I would look at the readings for the Mass of the day and talk about them. Who is featured? What is the message for us? Are there any common themes? How do the themes of the readings speak to me (and to us) today?
However, there are many Masses for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Many parishes only choose one set of them, because it’s easier to prepare just one homily, worship aid, set of hymns, etc. But which one will my parish choose? Which one will your parish choose? Will your parish celebrate each of them in turn?
The first set of readings is for Christmas vigil – Christmas Eve – and features Matthew’s listing of the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham, through David, to St. Joseph (Mt 1:1-25). This is followed by the narration of the decision of Joseph to accept Mary as his wife, even though she was pregnant before they were living together as man and wife. He believed and accepted the word of the angel who came to him in a dream with the message that this was God’s child.
The second set of readings is for Christmas night (midnight Mass). In these readings, St. Luke (2:1-14) picks up the story with the decree of Caesar Augustus that all must return to the town of their ancestors for a census and taxation. There are very specific names of officials in various regions of Palestine given, which tells us historically the timeframe of the events which follow. Luke tells us of Jesus’ birth in the stable and of the message to the shepherds carried by the angels. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The Mass at Dawn has Luke (2:15-20) telling of the decision of the shepherds to go and find the child. They find him in Bethlehem, lying in a manger, just as the angels had described. When they leave the stable, they tell everyone they meet about what they have heard and seen, “glorifying and praising God.”
The final Mass for Christmas is for Christmas Day. This one gives us the Prologue from the Gospel of St. John (1:1-18). This gospel was written many years after the Resurrection. It reflects a long period of theological reflection on the mystery of what has happened in history. In John’s Gospel, the focus is more on the divinity of Jesus. What he does is done deliberately and because God is in charge of the whole process.
The Prologue begins: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” It goes on to say that “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him… And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…”
The combined readings of all the Masses of Christmas tell the story of Salvation History from the beginning of creation through the birth of Jesus. The first and second readings of each of these Masses also differ – but the themes are similar in their focus on Salvation History. In the first readings, we see in great joy the coming of the Lord, or a return from exile, a rebirth of the community. In the second readings we hear of the early Church’s proclamation of the good news to the Jewish community (Acts 13:16-17, 22-25) and also their reflection on the effects of the coming of “our great God and savior Jesus Christ” (Ti 2:13) in the letters to Titus and the Hebrews.
In the weeks and months to come, we will learn more about the continued unfolding of that history in the life of Jesus and the birth of the Church, but for today, we stop and celebrate a wondrous reality. God cares enough about us that God chose to become one of us. This is the crux of the matter that we celebrate today. God’s plan for change included getting personally involved. God became a human being, with a name, a family history, a life story. In doing this, God shows a total commitment to making things better for all of us. We are not condemned to everlasting battles, unhappiness, struggles for justice. God got involved personally to lead the way into a new way of being human.
Let us take time today to rejoice and be glad. The Lord has come!
God’s Recipe for Change: Step Two – Get Personally Involved!
Merry Christmas!Read More