24Dec 24/12. Advent Thurs 4, plus Christmas Eve

The first pair of readings are for the morning Mass on 24th December, Thursday in Week 4 of Advent.

(See further down for the Midnight Mass of Christmas Eve)

1st Reading: 2 Samuel 7:1-5, etc.

David is promised a “house” or dynasty

Now when the king was settled in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”; Nathan said to the king, “Go, do all that you have in mind; for the Lord is with you.”;

But that same night the word of the Lord came to Nathan: “Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the Lord: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the Lord of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.

And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.”;

Gospel: Luke 1:67-79

Zechariah prophecies the future of John the Baptist

Then John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.

He has raised up a mighty saviour for us
in the house of his servant David,

as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us.

Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,

the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us
that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

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Zechariah’s new awareness of God

Once rendered mute for doubting God’s word, the father of John the Baptist suddenly regains his voice, to loudly proclaim the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. His is a song of Advent, as we wait for the light that has already come and is still yet to come. Before God’s messenger (Gabriel) appeared to Mary, he came to Zechariah with a startling promise like that first made to Abraham centuries before. Elizabeth and Zechariah’s advanced age is a clear parallel with Sarah and Abraham, when they too conceived their long hoped-for son, Isaac. Zechariah belongs to a priestly rank in Israel and Elizabeth too is a descendent of Aaron’s  priestly family. Thus the son they will raise is destined to lead people towards God. Then too, Gabriel promises that John will be filled with the spirit and power of Elijah,  a great prophet who turned his people to repentance (Malachi 4:5-6). Zechariah’s doubt at Gabriel’s words parallels Sarah’s unbelieving laugh at the idea that she could bear a child at her age (Genesis 18:12-15).

The background to Zechariah’s song is the biblical belief that God’s promises are fulfilled. When at first Zechariah doesn’t believe, he is rendered mute until the day the promised event occurs. Eight days after John’s birth, Zechariah and Elizabeth take him to be circumcised, following the ritual commanded to Abraham (Genesis 17:12.) When the time comes to name the child, Elizabeth insists that he be given the name John, as God had prescribed. His friends turned to Zechariah, who confirmed the name – and immediately he regained his speech and began praising God, whose promises are always fulfilled.

Zechariah’s song can become our own, this Christmas Eve, as we seek a revived awareness of God in our lives. We see light on the horizon, and await the full, dazzling light of God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ. We find ourselves in a time marked by the already and the not-yet. A light has dawned but doesn’t seem yet to have reached the deeper darkness in and around us. As disciples of Christ we live always in a kind of Advent-waiting, knowing that the light has come to our world, yet still awaiting for it to shine in fullest measure. We may even, like Zechariah, doubt that such a glorious future is possible. But also with him, we can praise God for the dawn, seeing it as the first shimmering of the final, full radiance of what God has in store.

24th December. Christmas Eve

Evening Mass of the Vigil of Christmas

1st Reading: Book of Isaiah 62:1-5

Your God will rejoice over you

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.

2nd Reading: Acts 13:16-17, 22-25

What led  up to the Messiah’s coming on earth

Paul stood up and with a gesture began to speak: “You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.

When he had removed him, he made David their king. In his testimony about him he said, “I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.” Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, “What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.”;

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

How Jesus is our Emmanuel

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”;

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,”; which means, “God is with us.”; When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

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Mary’s role and mission

God willed that own eternal Son would be the Saviour of the entire human race. In the lavish language of Isaiah, we hear about him that the “The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.. “; To save us is why he came! In order to do so, in the loving providence of God, he elected to take on our humanity, fully and in the flesh, by being born of a mother!

That was Mary’s role and mission: to be the mother who served God’s saving plan. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to her role. The angel Gabriel salutes her as full of grace – one who was totally ready for her great mission in life.

On this lovely feast of Christmas, we appreciate the great gifts God has given us through Mary and her son, Jesus. If we are generous we must ask ourselves one practical question: Am I also prepared to do what God asks of me. This principle — that God prepares those whom He chooses for some role in the service of others — is true for everyone who is prepared to serve God. We are chosen and called to holiness. God has prepared us for works of service and of enhancing life. He has gifted us with Jesus to be our Lord and guide, called us to the saving waters of Baptism, and gives us the support of the Church and our faith, strengthening us to cooperate with Jesus in saving this world.


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