At first glance, the readings for the Christmas night mass appear to speak for themselves. We are all familiar with these readings, especially if coming to this Mass during the night has become a Christmas custom within your household. The reading from Isaiah, speaks about people who have been living in darkness seeing a great light, and our churches, normally in darkness at this time of the night are lit up, instead of being empty they are filled with people. At this Mass there is an air of expectation as before this Mass we are in Advent and as we take part in this Mass we announce the birth of the Saviour, Our Immanuel; Christ is with us!
Tonight, we proclaim Gloria and join the hosts of angels in praising Hosanna in the Highest.
For today a child is born for us and he is Christ the Lord. We, his people are called to tell everyone of every nation the Good News, the news we first hear at our Baptism, that Jesus Christ is born, He is our Saviour and Lord, let the whole world rejoice, for He has come to rule the earth.
St Paul in his letter to Titus remind us to live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the second coming of Christ. We are asked to follow Christ’s example by loving God and our neighbour, follow God’s word in what we say and what we do; ultimately ‘giving up everything that does not lead to God’.
In the Gospel used for this Mass tonight, we are reminded of the first census, where all were asked to go to their hometown and register their family. We are so accustomed to this story that we accept that everyone went along dutifully to put their mark in a register, so that the Romans would know how many people they ruled over [and could tax]. However, if we think about this, the occupied people must have had great suspicions over the true intentions of these occupiers. Were they really asking people to travel great distances just to count them? Or did they have more sinister motives? I would guess that Joseph and all the other heads of household set out for their hometown with a bit of trepidation, Joseph also had the concern of his wife being heavily pregnant.
Our God is a God of surprises. When the Jewish people expected a powerful king, the messiah arrived as a helpless newborn baby. While royalty and religious leaders assumed their own nearness to God, God chose a woman, a manger, a family in hiding. The first people to hear about the birth of Jesus were not kings, nor the wealthy, nor people of great status. Just like when God was choosing the first king of Israel, He chose shepherds. This is a sign for us that Jesus did not come just for the well-educated, or for the wealthy or the elite; Jesus came for everyone, and we can all share in the wonder of His birth and in the Salvation which His life, death and resurrection promises for us.
Whether you are here at Church every week, or you are only here because you are expected to be here with your family at Christmas, or whether you have walked in tonight because you see the lights on, whatever the reason you find yourself here, know that you are welcome here, there is a place for you here and that God loves you and has sent His Son for you. This helpless baby is the Son of our Creator, he is the Word made flesh, the Light of Lights and the Lamb of God. He is my personal Saviour and he is your personal Saviour. There is no other Way to The Father except through him. He is the Good Shepherd, who will keep searching until he has gathered all of his lost sheep. He seeks those who are weary, he will give us rest. He is love, and quite simply he asks us to love, nothing more, nothing less. He asks us to love until it hurts and when it hurts, he asks us to love again.
I am going to finish with the words of Pope Benedict XVI,
God’s sign is simplicity. God’s sign is the baby. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendour. He comes as a baby – defenceless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts and his will – we learn to live with him and to practice with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small, so that we could understand him, welcome him and love him.1
I wish you and yours a very happy and holy Christmas.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Solemnity of Christmas
CCC 456-460, 466: “Why did the Word become flesh?”
CCC 461-463, 470-478: the Incarnation
CCC 437, 525-526: the Christmas mystery
CCC 439, 496, 559, 2616: Jesus is the Son of David
CCC 65, 102: God has said everything in his Word
CCC 333: the incarnate Christ worshipped by the angels
CCC 1159-1162, 2131, 2502: the Incarnation and images of Christ
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation and those considering coming into the Catholic Church.
- The innocent people caught up in wars and conflicts around the world, but especially those in Palestine, Israel, Ukraine and Russia.
- Those who are working at Christmas to keep other people safe, whether they are drivers, nurses, doctors, carers, emergency responders or military, the unseen heroes who keep our lights on and our water and gas supplies flowing, the food delivery people providing a lifeline to the housebound. Those working in prisons.
- Those volunteering to help others at this time.
- Those who are alone this Christmas.
- Those imprisoned and their families who will not be together this Christmas.
Deacon Tony Darroch 23rd December 2023.
1 Pope Benedict XVI, The CTS New Daily Missal, People’s Edition, [Catholic Truth Society, London, 2012]80.