25Dec 25 December 2017. (A). Midnight Mass of the Nativity of Our Lord

 It is our task and privilege (as celebrants) to make everyone, even irregular churchgoers, as warmly welcome as we can, this special night … Help them articulate their sense of wonder and express the faith that still flickers below the surface of their lives.

See also: Mass for Christmas Day (Mid-day)

1st Reading. Isaiah 9:1-7

God promises a saviour to rescue his people from darkness and bring them to peace and security

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.

2nd Reading. Titus 2:11-14

Saint Paul invites us to look forward to the coming of Christ in glory

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

At a fixed time in history, and in very simple circumstances, Jesus our Saviour was born

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 who are God’s friends!”


No Room For Them

Christmas cards  feel a bit old-fashioned in our electronic world. Not just the conventional 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 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 is waiting. The street should be recognisable to us all, as the very street where we live. The stranger knocking at the door of your home. .. Is there really NO ROOM?

 


 Lying in a manger

It’s night, but brightness illuminates the darkness over Bethlehem. The light surrounds the shepherds who hear the message. The child is hidden in an obscure, unknown place. Some effort is needed, to discover him.

Here are life-giving words we need to hear: “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy.”  Something really great is happening, and all of us have reason to rejoice. That newborn child doesn’t belong only to Mary and Joseph. He’s been born for all of us, for all people everywhere. We Christians mustn’t be the only ones to celebrate this evening. Jesus belongs to all who follow him with faith and those who have forgotten him, those who trust in God and those who doubt everything. No one is totally alone with their fears or their loneliness. There’s always this special someone who’s thinking of us. His name is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

The messenger proclaims: “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  He’s not the son of the emperor Augustus, proud ruler of the Roman world, celebrated as saviour and bringer of the Roman Peace, through the power of his armies. The birth of an emperor  isn’t good news in a world where the weak are victims of every kind of abuse. This child in the manger has no Roman citizenship, no rights under Roman law.He won’t be in service to any Caesar nor work for any empire. He’s the Son of God who has become human for people who need him.  He will live his life in order to make life more fair, more generous and more humane. In him the unjust world will find God’s salvation.

Where is this child? How can we recognize him? The messenger says: “Here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”  The child has been born as an outsider, one of the marginalised majority, a displaced person in need of housing. His parents weren’t able to find a room in the local boarding house. His mother gave birth to him in a kind of hut, without anyone’s help. She did as best she could, wrapping him in swaddling clothes and laying him in a manger. In this simplest of shelters begins God’s adventure among us. We won’t find God among the powerful, but in the weak. God isn’t in the grand and spectacular, but in the poor and the little one. Let’s go in spirit to Bethlehem and return to the roots of our faith, where God has become incarnate.


 There’s a welcome on the mat

We can see Christmas as “a kind of annual stock-taking that we seem compelled to make as the hours are counted down to midnight. It’s a time to examine where we are and how it’s going, a night when the eyes can fill with tears as the memories flood in … Christmas midnight is a kind of clearance in which we find ourselves.. able to see the wood from the trees of our lives. That’s why so many who never come to church for the rest of the year somehow find themselves drifting in on Christmas night for the annual visit. It’s a paying of dues, a naming of what’s important, a listing of what matters when the chips are down and the effect of the drink wears off.” (Brendan Hoban).

It is our task and privelege (as celebrants/homilists) to make these occasional visitors, the irregular churchgoers, as warmly welcome as we can, even if we have not seen some of them over the past 12 months. Our task is to put fresh, modern words on the message heard by the shepherds: “Glory to God, and peace to all God’s children!” – and help them articulate their innate sense of wonder and give expression to the faith that still flickers below the surface of their lives.


 Lying in a manger

[adapted from José Antonio Pagola]

It’s night, but a strange brightness illuminates the darkness over Bethlehem. The light doesn’t shine over the place where the child Jesus is to be found, but over surrounds the shepherds who hear the message. The child is hidden in an obscure, unknown place. Some effort is needed, to discover him.

Here are life-giving words we need to hear: “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy.”  Something really great is happening, and all of us have reason to rejoice. That newborn child doesn’t belong only to Mary and Joseph. He’s been born for all of us, for all people everywhere. We Christians mustn’t be the only ones to celebrate this evening. Jesus belongs to all who follow him with faith and those who have forgotten him, those who trust in God and those who doubt everything. No one is totally alone with their fears or their loneliness. There’s always this special someone who’s thinking of us. His name is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

The messenger proclaims: “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  He’s not the son of the emperor Augustus, proud ruler of the Roman world, celebrated as saviour and bringer of the Roman Peace, through the power of his armies. The birth of an emperor  isn’t good news in a world where the weak are victims of every kind of abuse. This child in the manger has no Roman citizenship, no rights under Roman law.He won’t be in service to any Caesar nor work for any empire. He’s the Son of God who has become human for people who need him.  He will live his life in order to make life more fair, more generous and more humane. In him the unjust world will find God’s salvation.

Where is this child? How can we recognize him? The messenger says: “Here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”  The child has been born as an outsider, one of the marginalised majority, a displaced person in need of housing. His parents weren’t able to find a room in the local boarding house. His mother gave birth to him in a kind of hut, without anyone’s help. She did as best she could, wrapping him in swaddling clothes and laying him in a manger. In this simplest of shelters begins God’s adventure among us. We won’t find God among the powerful, but in the weak. God isn’t in the grand and spectacular, but in the poor and the little one. Let’s go in spirit to Bethlehem and return to the roots of our faith, where God has become incarnate.


Ní raibh seómra ar fáil

Is féidir linn ár dtuiscint ar rúndiamhar na Nollag a scrúdú go héasca agus neamhdhíobhálach. Cathain a raibh an deire uair a ndearna mé (nó go ndearna tú) lámh chun cabhrú le duine abhí nó atá i ngátar? Cathain a d’oscail mé mo chroí nó mo theach le duine éigin atá ag iarraidh mo chabhair? Is féidir neamhaird a dhéanamh ar Chríost am ar bith ar bith a dúnaim mo chroí nó mo dhoras ar mo chomharsa. Mura rugfar Eisean i mo chroí agus i mo theaghlach sa Nollag seo, níor ghabh an miorúilt a thárla i mBeilim a phréamhacha i mo chroí féin. An strainséir a chnagann ar doras ár mbaile inniú: AN BHFUIL SEÓMRA AR FÁIL?​


Cad a mhúineann na h’aoirí dúinn

Nuair a chuala na haoirí teachtaireacht na n’aingeal, dúirt siad lena chéile, “Imímís go mBeitheal chun féachaint are an rud íontach seo dúinn féin.” Is turas fhionnachtana é an saol Críostaí, chun rudaí nua a fháil amach. Is é atá i gceist againn teacht ar an fhírinne dúinn féin. Tar éis an bhunús a fuaireamar ón ár dtuismitheoirí, múinteoirí nó teagasg na heaglaise; ní mór dúinn ár n’aithne ar Dhia a fháil amach dúinn féin. Caithfidh gach éinne an droichead sin a thrasnú: Ní mór dom féachaint ar mo shon féin. Creidim go bhfuil teachtaireacht an soiscéal inniú idir dhá abairt: “Tagaigí chun féachaint libh féin,” agus ar deireadh, “Imigí chun insint le daoine eile”.


Grafted into 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.”


 



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