Christmas Day – December 25
The Nativity of the Lord
Isaiah 52: 7 – 10
Hebrews 1, 1-6
Gospel John 1, 1 – 18
The Christmas feast is a festival full of joy. The Eternal Word has become Man and dwells among us. The longings of the patriarchs and prophets are fulfilled. With the shepherds we hurry to the manger and adore the Incarnate Son of God, who for us and for our salvation descended upon earth. The purpose of the Christmas feast is beautifully expressed in the Preface of the Nativity: “For by the mystery of the Word made flesh the light of Thy glory hath shone anew upon the eyes of our mind; so that while we acknowledge Him a God seen by men, we may be drawn by Him to the love of things unseen.”
Imagine, Jesus, the Son of God and our Savior born in a stable and placed in a manger instead of in a cot! When God comes he usually comes in humility, silently and peacefully, without causing a great disturbance. God’s humble coming in Jesus would not surprise us if we knew God better. But of course we will never know God sufficiently to understand. So no matter how much we try to understand God becoming human in Jesus we will not be able to comprehend, it will remain a mystery. The best reaction is that of the shepherds, simply to praise God. Let us praise God now in our own words.
As we look on baby Jesus we think of the mystery of God’s love for us. Why did God who is almighty and all-powerful become small and powerless as a baby? Quite simply, out of love for us. God became human so that we might become more like God. Jesus if you had not come as a human like us, we might have had difficulty in believing that God really loved us. But now we know for sure. John the Evangelist says, “This is the revelation of God’s love for us, that God sent his only Son into the world that we might have life through him”. Let us thank God for revealing his love for us in Jesus, that he who is so big and powerful became so small and weak for us, that he became one of us, to help us be more like him, to have life through him.
During the Christmas season there is an extensive exchange of greetings and good wishes among friends. These greetings are a reminder of those “good tidings of great joy that shall be to all the people, for this day is born to you a Savior Who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:11). They are a reminder, too, that all blessings and graces come to us from Christ: “Hath He not also with Him given us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
As we see baby Jesus in the manger we reflect on God’s way being a way of gentleness and tenderness. God’s way is not one of violence but gentleness. There is a lack of goodness and love in the world but God is tender and loving. As we look on baby Jesus in the manger we see that he is the answer to today’s problems. Instead of violence, in baby Jesus in the manger we see gentleness. Instead of hatred, in baby Jesus in the manger we see tenderness. Instead of selfishness, in baby Jesus in the manger we see love for us. Let us ask baby Jesus to help us to be gentle, tender and loving with those around us as he was in the manger.
Hope is not merely a wish that something good might happen – it is the firm confidence an desire that the promises of God will be fulfilled.. The difference in how hope is defined may sound like a technicality, but it reveals something profound. For a long time I thought that hope in God was the same thing as hoping I got a good grade on an exam or hoping my flight would actually be on time. It was something I wanted to happen, but something that may just as well not happen. I hoped god would hear my prayer; I hoped He would bring joy out of my suffering. I hoped He would bring joy out of my suffering; I hoped He would heal a world broken by sin and death. But would he?
All of us have sorrowful mysteries in our lives. We all have those pats of our hearts and lives that are rarely spoken of, preferably forgotten, and hidden in darkness. We all have family members who are struggling. We all see the suffering of humanity across the world during pandemic, and I think we all wonder at times, “Why would a good God allow these things to happen?” It’s often in these moments, in the acute sorrow and the chronic suffering, that hope can die in our hearts.
Over the years I have needed to have many words rehabilitated in my heart and mind. My life was profoundly transformed when both mercy and forgiveness were restore and more properly understood. This very same thing is happening in our lives today as God rehabilitates the word hope and its meaning in the depths of our heart. Hope is the expectation that “he who began a good work among you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1: 6). God is beginning a new work today in and through his only Son Jesus Our Saviour. God is beginning a new era by offering his only begotten Son into this world.
Jesus in the manger, you give us hope. In the darkness of our world, your light has shone. Your coming in gentleness encourages us to hold out the hand of reconciliation, to help one another, to work for peace. We remember the message of the angels; “Glory to God in the highest heaven and on earth peace”. Baby Jesus, help us to be people of peace and to spread peace everywhere we go. Let us pray now for peace.
During the Christmas season there is also an exchange of gifts. This custom should recall to us that on this day God Himself gave to us the greatest of all gifts, His beloved Son: “God so loved the world as to give His only begotten Son” (John 3: 16).
The Christmas tree, of which the first-known mention was made in 1605 at Strasbourg, was introduced into France and England in 1840. It symbolizes the great family tree of Christ which through David and Jesse has its roots in Abraham, the father of the chosen race. It is often laden with gifts to remind us that Christmas brought us the priceless gifts of grace and of eternal life. It is frequently adorned with lights that recall to us that Christ is the Light of the world enlightening those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Though not entirely unknown before, the custom of the Christmas Crib was adopted by St. Francis of Assisi at Greccio, Italy, on Christmas 1225. It is a concrete and vivid way of representing to ourselves the Incarnation and birth of Christ. It depicts in a striking manner the virtues of the newborn Savior, especially His humility, poverty, and charity.
Like Mary, the shepherds are told to go in search of a sign: a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger (v. 12). The sign describes something unusual but not in itself remarkable — in the way, for instance, that the pregnancy of the aged and hitherto barren Elizabeth was remarkable. But when the shepherds — again like Mary (1:39) — go “with haste” to Bethlehem and find the child lying in the manger exactly as they had been told by the angels, the coherence of reality with promise becomes for them “knowledge of salvation’.
In this way, the shepherds join Zechariah and Mary in modelling the reception of salvation as Luke understands it. One can experience salvation before receiving all the promised blessings. To see that the gap between promise and reality has been overcome in some lesser way gives confidence that God will in due course faithfully bring to pass the full measure. This is what the canticles of Mary and Zechariah affirm and what the shepherds also acknowledge when they return “glorifying and praising God” (v. 20). Salvation, then, has essentially to do with a sense that God is faithful. It connotes, to be sure, the attainment of eternal life. But it begins when people discern instances of God’s faithfulness in their lives. These instances then become “signs” of a more complete measure of salvation to come.
What more could God have done for us? God gave us the greatest gift of all that first Christmas, his Son Jesus. Jesus invites you to give him a gift in return, the gift of your heart, the gift of you making room in the inn of your heart for him not just at Christmas or Easter but every day, and especially to worship him at Mass every Sunday. How terrible that centuries before Christ, Isaiah complained that while the cow knew its owner and the donkey knew where to get its food, the people of his time did not know God. Can you get to know Jesus who has done everything for you? Can you do something for Jesus, get to know Jesus as your best friend, open your heart to him and follow him in everything every day?
There is more. We are only fully human when we are turned to God, turned to Jesus, allowing him to lift us up to who we really are. If we do not understand or see ourselves as God does, if we only see ourselves as the world does apart from God, then we are sad. There is only one way to live, to live following Jesus every day, every week, every Sunday, because desire for God is in our very flesh. The only way to be fully happy and successful is to make room in the inn of our hearts every day for Jesus. The angel said to the shepherds “a Savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) Jesus is our only Savior. If we do not follow Jesus our Savior we are lost because only Jesus is the way to the Father, the way to heaven, only Jesus can save us.
Are you making room for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in the inn of your heart this Christmas? God thinks you are out of this world and wishes you to allow his Son Jesus to take you by the hand and lift you up out of your world to his world. God gave us the greatest gift of all that first Christmas, his Son Jesus. Jesus waits for you to give him a gift in return, the gift of your heart, the gift of you making room in the inn of your heart for him not just at Christmas or Easter but every day, and especially to worship him at Mass every Sunday. Jesus has done everything for you, can you do something for Jesus? Open your heart to Jesus.
God Bless you. Merry Christmas!