Christmas 2012 Daytime Mass
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”
Today, the Church once again proclaims this joyful message to the whole world a savior has been for you, the Messiah and Lord. What a tremendous mystery was proclaimed during that Bethlehem night, when the glory of the Lord shone round a group of humble and poor shepherds tending their flocks, and they heard the voice of an angel penetrating the darkness of that night with this message, that God was sending them a savior to deliver them, and all people, from the darkness of this world, the darkness of their lives, and to lead them into His own wonderful light, the glory of God that shone round them.
True faith accepts this message at its face value, and the shepherds, representing the humble of the whole world, will make their way toward Bethlehem to pay homage to this great prodigy who enters this world in the most mysterious of circumstances: “And this will be a sign for you, you will find and infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Faith accepts this great and mysterious paradox, that such stupendous greatness should enter the world in such a humble setting, in such personal humility; that the light should conquer the darkness beginning from a crib in a cave in David’s City.
Such humble faith opens the believer up to the even more profound depths of the mystery of this day, that is, the mystery of who
this child really is. The readings from today’s liturgy present the depths of this mystery for the eyes of our faith, so that we too can go in heart and spirit with the shepherds to that cave and adore the child laid in that manger.
In the first reading of the Midnight Mass, the prophet Isaiah declared “for a child is born to us, a son is given us, upon his shoulder dominion rests,”
and He declared that this child is named WonderCounselor, Godhero, Father Forever, Prince of Peace. In the Daytime Mass which we are celebrating, Isaiah openly proclaims, from this same chapter, “your God is King.”
Likewise, in the Letter to the Hebrews we just listened to, Paul says that this infant child is the perfect reflection of the Glory of the Father, the exact representation of the Father’s being, and that He sustains all things by his powerful word. And then he declares that the Father himself once identified the child as his own Son: “You are my son, today I have begotten you” and then concludes, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
Finally, in today’s Gospel we hear the Apostle John once again identify the child: Jesus is “The Word” who is God from God from all eternity. Indeed, He is the Word through whom all things were made, the Word that is God. And he summarizes the whole mystery of this day in just a few words: “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory: the glory of an only Son coming from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Listening to these revealed words, when received in faith, the Church’s proclamation concerning who this child truly is, who comes in the night of Bethlehem, we cannot but be filled with awe and wonder that all of this is being said about a tiny infant child wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. That God should become man, the infinite become a finite speck in His own creation, is stunning enough for our poor minds, but that the King of Heaven and Earth, the Mighty God through whom the universe was made should come in such utterly humble circumstances, how can we deal with this, even if it is the good news of salvation? Only faith can accept such a truth; only adoration can be a proper response of such faith: so come let us adore him.
Without such faith which accepts the truth proclaimed about this child at face value, no matter how overwhelming the mystery, no matter how paradoxical the circumstances of his birth and life and the truth about who he is, without such simple faith, today’s celebration is reduced to mere sentimentality and unjustifiable merriment, a myth which cannot justify our celebration nor account for the joy that fills believing Christian hearts. For so many people today, this celebration has been terribly reduced because faith is lacking in the truth of Christmas, and all that is left is tinsel and sentimentality, good feelings that last but a short while, until one’s life returns to its usual pattern of hopelessness and final gloom. For if one does not believe in this child, then what cause is there for hope? For if there is no ultimate salvation for man, there is likewise no rational cause for lasting joy, since faithlessness only believes that life ends where it began, in nothingness and emptiness.
But for the eyes of faith, this child’s birth is truly an occasion for celebration, hope and an unquenchable joy, no matter what the circumstances of our own life. This child is God’s saving love entering our dark world. He is the only possible Savior for us, Godwithus, Emmanuel, Eternal Life itself, the Glory of the Father, the great gift who surpasses every other gift.
And if we focus this day on little children, it should not be out of mere sentimentality about childhood and innocence. Rather, for Christians it is because children especially
remind us today that Innocence Himself once entered the world as a child, and made it possible for us to recover our own lost innocence.
And if we give gifts today, as Christians, it is not mere human affection for others that we are showing, but our faith that God has given us his Greatest gift in his only begotten Son, and so we in turn are called by faith to respond with the gift of ourselves to God and to neighbor, as a sign of our faith and love in response to God’s Gift.
Christmas always calls us back to the fundamental truths and values that make life in this world a joy, the truth and values found in that crib: Let this be a sign, a lesson, for you, you shall find a child lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. What lessons there are to be found there in that crib, the value of simplicity and humbleness, demonstrated by our God; the supreme value of life itself and eternal life, for he came not to make our lives easier in this world, but to give us what He alone can give us, Eternal Life, Eternal Blessedness. His poverty reminds us of our own poverty without Him, and it reminds us that we falsify life if we focus our hearts on this world and its riches rather than upon God and His riches. His humility and poverty remind us of who we are substantially, not who He is substantially. His innocence appeals to us to renounce our sinfulness and to be reborn as His brothers and sisters in the waters of Baptism and repentance. If we leave this Church unchanged, unwilling to reject whatever contradicts the innocence of that child, then we do not really have the faith the makes the joy of Christmas a reasonable joy, a rational hope.
Let all the angles of God worship Him, says Hebrews; so come, let us also adore him, not just in words, but in deeds, not just in feelings but in genuine repentance and renewal of our lives. That is the message of Christmas, the hope and joy of this day. May this be truly a day of such blessings for you and your