CHRISTMAS – Christ: the meaning and light of our lives
INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
‘Behold, I bring you news of great joy for all the people. To-day a saviour has been born’ to you; he is Christ the Lord.’ This was the message the angels brought to the shepherds.
Today, through the voice of the Church, this marvellous message is announced to us too. Let us open our minds and hearts to receive the ‘great joy’. [Pause].
Christ himself is the ‘great joy’. We receive the great joy when we receive him.
Lord Jesus, on this bright day you reveal to us the mystery of the Father’s unconditional love for us, and you help us to respond to this love. Lord, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, on this bright day you reveal to us the mystery of our dignity as children of the Father, and you help us live up to this dignity. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, on this bright day, you reveal to us our eternal destiny, and you help us to attain this destiny. Lord, have mercy.
HEADINGS FOR READINGS
First Reading (Isaiah 921-7). This reading looks forward to the coming of a Saviour-child who will rescue his people from darkness and oppression, and enable them to live in security and peace.
Second Reading (Titus 2:11-14). St Paul reminds us of what is expected of us if we are to enjoy the salvation won for us by Christ.
Gospel (Luke 2:1-14). This tells about the birth of Christ in a manger and how the news of his birth was brought to simple shepherds by angels.
First Reading (Isaiah 62:11-12). With the birth of our Lord the Christian people can taste the joy of the exiles returning from Babylon.
Second Reading (Titus 324-7). We ourselves did nothing to merit the birth of Christ; rather, God sent his Son out of compassion for us.
Gospel (Luke 2:15-20). With Mary we are invited to ponder on the deep meaning of the birth of Christ so that, with the shepherds, we may be moved to glorify and praise God.
First Reading (Isaiah 5227-10). This great hymn of exultation at the return of the exiles from Babylon is also a poem of joy for our redemption.
Second Reading (Hebrews 1:1-6). The whole history of God’s dealings with his people in the past was a preparation for the coming of his Son at a particular moment in history.
Gospel (John 1:1-18). This is a great hymn to the Word of God, the source of all life, whose coming among us makes us children of God.
Christmas introduces us to the mystery of the incarnation, that is, the mystery of God’s own Son taking ﬂesh and coming to live among us. It is impossible to explore its height and depth. It is above all a mystery of love, God’s love for mankind in general, and for each of us in particular. Christianity is a very humanistic religion, in the sense that its chief task is to enable us to find ourselves, to be the people we are made to become, and to achieve our destiny.
We cannot find ourselves, or be ourselves, or achieve our destiny without Christ. The great Russian writer, Dostoyevsky, said: ‘While we are on earth, we grope almost as though in the dark and, but for the precious image of Christ before us, we would lose our way completely and perish.’ I don’t think he was exaggerating. A little story will help us to see what he meant.
Once a small boy was given a jigsaw puzzle with several hundred pieces in it. Unfortunately, he lost the box it came in, which contained a picture of the completed puzzle. He made valiant efforts to put it together but failed. His parents and other adults helped him, but even with their help he did not succeed. He got pieces of it together, and thus got glimpses of ﬁgures and objects but, lacking the over-all pattern, he couldn’t go any further.
Then one day an uncle of his arrived with a present of a jigsaw for the kid. It was the exact same one and, of course, on the cover of the box was the elusive picture. The boy was delighted and, having placed the picture in front of him, set about the task once more. He started from where he had left off. The uncle offered to help, but the kid declined his offer, saying that he wanted to do the jigsaw on his own.
What a difference it made to have something deﬁnite to aim at, something sure to guide his every move. It was wonderful to see things take shape, to watch the picture grow. For a While he made good progress. But, in spite of having the picture in front of him, it was no joke. He ran into all sorts of blind alleys. He began to grow tired and discouraged. Eventually he got so bogged down that he couldn’t see any way forward.
It was at this point that his uncle offered to help once more. This time the help was accepted. With the uncle at his side to guide and encourage him, be began to inch his way forward once again, one piece at a time. It was slow, tiring, and tedious. But eventually the job was completed. When he looked at the finished job, the boy was radiant with joy, and everybody congratulated him.
This is what Christ does for us through the incarnation. He has given us a picture of who we are and what our destiny is. We are children of God, and are destined to share eternal life. But Christ does not just put the picture before us. He places himself at our side, and helps us to attain it.
It was to the lowly shepherds that the Good News was first announced. Here were men lost in the night, doing an obscure work, forgotten by the world of the powerful and the rich. Christmas Day achieves a great leveling off. Nobody can feel superior to another on this day. Neither should anybody feel inferior. It puts an end to all elitism. It does this, not by lowering us all, but by raising us all.
Dostoyevsky spent four years in a Siberian prison. He gives a moving account of what Christmas Day meant to the prisoners. ‘The mood of the prisoners was very touching,’ he says. ‘It made them aware that they were in contact with all the world, that consequently they were not altogether outcasts, lost souls, pieces of ﬂotsam. They felt this. It was visible for all to see.’
On this day the whole world becomes friendlier. It shines with joy, meaning, hope, and love. And all this because of the ‘great joy’ that was announced to the shepherds, and that is now announced to us. More wonderful still, on this day we are given a mysterious, sacred sense of a living bond with another world.
The only .ones who are locked out of the feast are those who exclude themselves -those who are awaiting nothing or want for nothing. You have to be poor, dissatisﬁed, lonely, to welcome the Saviour. The poorer you are, the more central will be the place you will get at this banquet of joy.
‘As a magnifying glass concentrates the rays of the sun so that they can start a fire, so the mystery of Christ concentrates the rays of God’s light to a point that sets fire to the spirit of man.’ (Thomas Merton).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Things have never been the same since the Son of God came down on earth to reveal to us the Father’s love for us, our true dignity, and eternal destiny. Let us pray this day through Christ our Brother. R. Lord, hear our prayer.
For the pope and the bishops: that Christ’s light may help them in their task of guiding the people of God to the Promised Land of eternal life. [Pause]. Let us pray to the Lord.
For all men and women of good will: that the coming of Christ may enlighten their minds, raise their hopes, and deepen their love.[Pause]. Let us pray to the Lord.
That the light of Christ may shine this day on the lonely, the sick, and those who have no meaning in their lives. [Pause]. Let us pray to the Lord.
That the coming of Christ’s light may help us to become more aware that we are indeed brothers and sisters, and deepen our love and respect for one another. [Pause]. Let us pray to the Lord.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Father, this day we celebrate the birth of your Son in Bethlehem. Help us to realise that your Son could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem, but it would all be in vain unless he is born in us. We ask this through the same Christ our Lord.
SIGN OF PEACE
Lord, at your birth the angels sang: ‘Glory to God in the highest,
and peace to his people on earth.’ Grant that we who have heard the
message of the angels may enjoy the peace and unity of your
kingdom where you live for ever and ever.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.
On those who lived in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
Christ is the true light
that shines for all people.
Since his coming
a light has been shining on our earth,
a light that darkness cannot overpower.
So light your candles,
offer your gifts, I
and be happy on this bright day,
for Christ has enlightened us.
We now know who we are
and where we’re going.
We are brothers and sisters of Christ,
and we are bound for the Father’s kingdom.
So happy Christmas, everyone!