24 December 2012. Monday. Midnight Mass
Theme: On the birthday of Our Saviour, born in a stable for us, we can best honour him by opening our hearts and homes to whoever needs our care.
Is 9:1-6. The beautiful prophecy of a God-sent child who will rescue his people from darkness and oppression and bring them to peace and security.
Tit 2:11-14. Our faith looks forward to Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time.
Lk 2:1-14. At a privileged time in history, and in very ordinary circumstances, Jesus, the long awaited Saviour, was born.
No Room For Them
Christmas cards feel a bit old-fashioned in our electronic world. Not just the triteness about them. The real problem is deciding who to send them to. You try to be sure to write to those who are likely to send you a card, so the lines get blurred and the list expands. In the end, you find yourself including everybody who might possibly send you seasonal greetings. The lists never match and there is a last minute rush to fill the gaps. But whatever the defects of the cards, the thought behind it is undeniably good.
It is a pity that Christmas cards so rarely reflect an authentic message about what the birth of Christ means. What about a simple black and white line drawing of a street with a row of houses, with a few touches – a milk bottle outside the door, an open window with a fluttering curtain – indicating that the houses are lived in. In the centre would be a man knocking at a door. His head is turned towards the street, where a woman stands waiting. The street depicted should be recognisable to each recipient, as the very street where we live. The stranger knocking at the door of your home. ..: NO ROOM?
The major test for Christmas is easy and foolproof. When last did I/you last stretch out a helping hand to someone in need? open heart or home to somebody in want? Any unanswered knock on my door may be an ignoring of Christ. If HE is not born in my heart and in my home this Christmas, what happened in Bethlehem long ago has not really taken root in my heart.
Grafted to the Tree of Life
Words are often a weak method of communication. However, we have to use words, and today’s gospel is an attempt, in simple language, to describe what happened on that extraordinary day, so long ago. It speaks of Jesus being born, and of the second meeting of heaven and earth, on that same night, when the angels appeared to the shepherds. This was the beginning of a process that is still on-going, as I speak. It is an old story that is ever new.
“Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and always.” With God there is no such thing as time. All of time is totally present to him right now. God’s work among us is always in process, it never comes to an end. In God’s eyes, Christmas is an everyday event, that involves Jesus knocking on the door of my heart, seeking admission. The God-dimension never changes, the offer is always there, the good news is delivered with greater consistency than the morning newspaper. What happens after that is totally dependent on whether I accept the offer, open the door, and make my heart available as a manger.
One important point: when the shepherds heard the message they said, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see it for ourselves.” The life of the Christian is a journey of discovery. It involves coming to find out for myself the truth and the reality of what I had been told by my parents, teachers, or preachers in church. I have to cross that bridge. The gospel is in between two phrases. At the beginning, we are invited to “Come and see,” and, at the end, we are instructed to “Go and tell.”
First Reading: Isaiah 9:2-7
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness-on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Second Reading: Titus 2:11-14
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
Gospel: Luke 2:1-14
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!”