Christmas ~ 25 December 2022 ~ Sunday ~ Bible Readings for Mass During the Night, Christmas Eve: I: Isaiah 9: 1-6; Responsorial: Psalm 96; II: Titus 2: 11-14; Gospel: Luke 2: 1-14
May the blessings of Jesus our Savior be yours as we celebrate his birth. May we each realize deep within our souls the holy truth and joy of Emmanuel, God with us. Let us set aside the distractions, stresses, and worries that would chill and oppress us during this sacred season. Let us trust Jesus who comes to save us from our failings and sins, and come to him.
Again, please, may the blessings of Jesus our Savior be yours as we celebrate his birth. May we realize deep within our souls the holy truth and joy of Emmanuel, God with us.
May the Holy Spirit help us to seek, to see, to know the glory and beauty of Jesus, born in the manger. Together let us come to the humble stable and ask, What happened at Christmas?
Immense would be theological and doctrinal truths we could explore as we begin this season of Christmas. Our Gospel reading begins with the words: “In those days…”. We truly do not know when precisely Jesus was born. Of course, tradition and ancient consensus agreed upon December 25 as the day of the nativity. Scholars and skeptics challenge and ponder the accuracy of that ancient agreement. Many delight in pointing out that Christians “stole” or co-opted the time of celebration from the diverse pagan celebrations centered around the winter solstice. The pagan roots of this celebration are clear and should be accepted not with shame or pride but with the humble realization that this history reflects the holy journey of souls seeking and growing in the truth. That humanity can grow, change and see their faith mature into fuller realizations of God is, in simple terms, the graces of conversion. The winter celebrations of light in the cold darkness of winter are a profound foretelling of the coming of Christ to free us from the darkness of sin. But these ponderings only return us to the more basic question: What happened at Christmas?
“In those days…” So Luke shared in the Gospel for this day. When Jesus was born of the virgin in the manger in Bethlehem countless were the glories that God brought to creation. Let us explore only three on this sacred night.
First, we can recognize that with the birth of Jesus time and eternity meet. When Jesus was born there was brought to all creation the truth that God, eternal was born as a finite person. Jesus, the infant in the manger, opened the veil of eternity with his humanity. What happened in the stable at Bethlehem would open and bridge all of time and eternity. Tonight in this church, and with Christians all over the world what happened at Christmas is shared now, well over 2000 years later. We are not here by accident. We may think we are here because of family, friends, customs, or a holy day of obligation. We would be blessed to realize we celebrate this day because a baby in a manger caused eternity and time, as we know it, to meet. And many are the blessings this Jesus will bring into our lives as we celebrate Him, not for just this day but for all the days of our lives. What presents God has for us as we present ourselves to him every day he brings us?
Secondly, during this sacred season of Christmas, we would realize that with the nativity creation is unlocked. In the garden all creation was free. Our humanity, plants, animals, and God’s heavenly creatures all shared in the good God had made. Sin, of course, broke this celebration of life. The ability of humanity to see beyond their own selves would be hindered and bound. Except for brief moments with the interventions of God and the angels, humanity was locked from realizing the greater fullness of creation. Until Christmas. The power and grace of God would bring the virgin to carry a son. And in the holy birth, all the hard pain of motherhood would bring to all the gift of our Creator. Soon, that night, in the hills above the city creation would further open for the shepherds as the angels heralded the coming of the Messiah. That the heavenly host would share with the humble of humanity had never occurred. Until Jesus was born. Creation opened for the heavens and earth to rejoice. With poignant power and beauty, the psalm proclaims: “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoices; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them! Then shall the trees of the forest exult….”
What happened at Christmas? Time and eternity have met! All creation is unlocked to worship the Savior!
And of most importance, God and man are become one. The great graces of Christmas are countless but they are all made possible by the boundless embrace of love found in Jesus. God of timeless eternity had created the beauty of the heavens, earth, and people. And in that same holy love, God knew that people must have free will. We needed the ability to… choose. It is that distinctive gift and peril of our human condition that we may choose the good, life, we may choose God. Or not. So sin, rebellion, death, and sorrow were brought into creation. So God did for us what God asks of us, to trust, and to love. In love for us, Jesus was born. Tonight the Christchild would seek us, beckon us, to Him. Jesus dared to mix the holy Divinity that God, is with the broken humanity that we are. And Jesus was born of Mary. God and man became One so that we could be made one with God.
What really happened at Christmas? Are these thoughts shared today just so many words? Is what we read in Scripture, what we have heard in the Gospel just religious fantasy? We must be courageous in asking what really did happen at Christmas over 2000 years ago? And we must also be faithful to honestly ask these questions. But we must also have the courage and faith to allow God to answer.
The answers to what happened at Christmas will only be truly answered when we come to the manger, to Christ today, and ask, Jesus, what really happens when you come to the manger of my heart?