Christmas Midnight Mass–Cycle C–2018

FIRST READING Isaiah 9:1-6

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.  For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames.  For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests.  They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.  His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.  The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!

SECOND READING Titus 2:11-14

Beloved:  The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.

GOSPEL  Luke 2:1-14

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.  This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.  So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.  And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.  While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son.  She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.  The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “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.”  And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:  “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

The grace of God has appeared!  We rejoice because God loves us and God saves us!  We rejoice because Christ is born for us and dies for us.  As we celebrate this Mass during the night, let us remember the incredible love that is given to us from God the Father, in the Spirit, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah gave our ancestors a clear indication that a king is coming.  Imagine who our Jewish ancestors envisioned; we must try to understand the excitement and anticipation of the coming Messiah King from the perspective of the early Jews.  A conquering king, like David. A wise king with many wives like Solomon.  How different Jesus was from the idea of a king that they had in mind.  They probably imagined someone who would free them from their oppressors, overthrow the Romans and restore their kingdom, specifically the Davidic dynasty, one of the oldest in the ancient world.  Well, this Jesus was a king but not a king fulfilling their worldly expectations.

In the second reading of the Letter to Titus, we are reminded that Christ has come and gives himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.  Some kings are not good for the people over whom they rule.  Mark Twain expressed a strong opinion about kings when he said, “Sometimes I wish we could hear of a country that’s out of kings.”  Jesus is not a king that is out for himself; he came to love us by doing good for us and others.  He is a king who models for us holiness:  being at one with God. Most experiences of kings in the ancient world contradicted the righteousness of Jesus, that is, His standing aright with God.

The Gospel of Luke tells us once again about the birth of Jesus, seeking to make clear that this is a real birth of a real person into real time, and yet it is still God bursting into our world in a way never before known.  It was similar to a coronation whereby the act of placement or bestowal of a crown upon a monarch’s head takes place. A coronation refers not only to the physical crowning but to the whole ceremony wherein the act of crowning occurs, along with the presentation of other items of regalia, marking the formal investiture of a monarch with regal power. Who better to announce this kingship to than shepherds in a field through stratagem of angels!  Not at all our conception of kingly investiture.

Even throughout His life, many people seemed uncertain about who Jesus is.  Slowly some of His followers come to accept His own words.  Jesus was so unlike our idea of how a king should look and act.  Mercifully, Jesus is born for us!  Jesus is God!  Jesus takes on our humanity to save us.  We too can sing with the angels:  Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace!  Glory to God!