Fourth Sunday of Advent
Reading 1 2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16
Responsorial Psalm PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
- (2a) For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.
Reading 2 ROM 16:25-27
Alleluia LK 1:38
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.
May it be done to me according to your word.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel LK 1:26-38
The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Mass During the Night
Reading 1 IS 9:1-6
Responsorial Psalm PS 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13
- (Lk 2:11) Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.
Reading 2 TI 2:11-14
- Alleluia, alleluia.
I proclaim to you good news of great joy:
today a Savior is born for us,
Christ the Lord.
Gospel LK 2:1-14
Homily—December 24 & 25, 2017—Christmas
It is wonderful to celebrate the birth of Our Savior with you this year. Just imagine the excitement and wonder that must have been going through Mary and Joseph as the birth of this miraculous conception is to take place after nine months of waiting. Now the birth is going to happen far from home and they do not find any relatives with an available guest room. Mary gives birth and they wrap the baby in swaddling clothes and lay him in the manger. It is in the manger that the animals find their food and Jesus will be food for us when he takes the bread at the Last Supper and says take and eat, this is my body. Later he takes the chalice of wine and says take and drink, this is my blood. What a gift we are given when we receive the real presence of Jesus in Holy Communion! I say thank you Jesus, I believe, please help my unbelief when I find it difficult to share the love you have given me with others.
Jesus is born to a couple who are poor and no one would have thought that this child was destined to be a Savior. He came into the world at a time when news traveled slowly—no face book or twitter or e-mail. I can’t help thinking that Satan must have known that a new force for good was now in the world even though the devil could not identify the source. Even the devil was fooled by Jesus coming into the world in such an unassuming way until the angels and the shepherds and the star and the Magi gave it away. No wonder that they had to travel to Egypt as immigrants until it was safe to return home.
Jesus is revealed to the shepherds by an angel with shining glory who says, “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. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” This is the reality that I try to take in and understand every Christmas. I think of you mothers who have conceived and given birth to a child and wonder what different layers of meaning this must have for you as you contemplate and try to understand what Mary was experiencing! Here is God becoming one of us and living on earth for about thirty years before beginning his public ministry which ends with his giving his life on the cross out of love for us. I can only wish that I could love that much.
Pope Benedict XVI says this: “God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Exactly the same sign has been given to us. . .God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby—defenseless and in need of our help. . .He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other 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.”
Pope Francis says this: In order to meet him, we need to go where he is. We need to bow down, to humble ourselves, to make ourselves small. The newborn child challenges us. He calls us to leave behind fleeting illusions and to turn to what is essential, to renounce our insatiable cravings, to abandon our endless yearning for things we will never have. We do well to leave such things behind, in order to discover, in the simplicity of the divine Child, peace, joy, and the luminous meaning of life. . .
The mystery of Christmas, which is light and joy, challenges and unsettles us, because it is at once a mystery of hope and of sadness. It has a taste of sadness, inasmuch as love is not accepted, and life discarded. Such was the case with Joseph and Mary, who met with closed doors, and placed Jesus in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by many others with indifference. Today, too, that same indifference can exist, whenever Christmas becomes a holiday with ourselves at the center rather than Jesus. . .”
Jack Shea, Catholic theologian and spiritual writer wrote this prose poem entitled “Sharon’s Christmas Prayer”
“She was 5, sure of all the facts and recited them with slow solemnity, convinced every word was revelation. She said:
“They were so poor they had only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to eat, and they went a long way from home without getting lost. The lady rode a donkey, and the man walked, and the baby was inside the lady. …Shepherds came and you could pet the sheep, but not feed them. Then the baby was borned. And do you know who he was? Her quarter eyes inflated to silver dollars.’
“The Baby was God!”
“And she jumped in the air, whirled around, dove into the sofa and buried her head under the cushion, which is the only proper response to the good News of the Incarnation.”