Homily for Mass during the Day at Christmas—Cycle C—2018

FIRST READING            Isaiah 52:7-10

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation, and saying to Zion, “Your God is King!  Hark!  Your sentinels raise a cry, together they shout for joy, for they see directly, before their eyes, the LORD restoring Zion.  Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem!  For the LORD comforts his people, he redeems Jerusalem.  The LORD has bared his holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.

SECOND READING                  Hebrews 1:1-6

Brothers and sisters:  In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.  When he had accomplished purification from sins, he took his seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, as far superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.  For to which of the angels did God ever say: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you”?  Or again: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me”?  And again, when he leads the firstborn into the world, he says: “Let all the angels of God worship him.”

GOSPEL                John 1:1-18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.  What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  A man named John was sent from God.  He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to testify to the light.  The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.  But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.  And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.  John testified to him and cried out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’”  From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace, because while the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God.  The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side, has revealed him.

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Christ is born for us!  On this Day Mass of Christmas, we always hear from the Gospel of John.  It is a very different account of the birth of the Lord Jesus:  the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory.  There are no details about the birth but only a reflection on how this birth has changed our world entirely.  John is completely confident that all that is in the world has come to be in Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ, who is born for us this day.

Messengers, like John, are important.  Being a messenger is not the exclusive purview of the angels.   Although over the past weeks we have read many examples of angels acting as messengers to Manoah and his wife about the birth of Samson, to Zachariah and Elizabeth about the birth of John, and to the Virgin Mary preceding the glorious birth of our Savior, Jesus, which we celebrate today.  Practically speaking today’s readings speak to us about messages and messengers.

Messages are important, so too is the act of sending and receiving them.   Most of us have experienced the joy of sending and receiving Christmas cards which may include:  pictures of growing children or families, letters to friends and families about the traditions of Christmas or the summary of the year, short notes of endearment scribbled in the margins (giving the card a personal touch).  What joy there is in receiving greetings from dear ones, even postal carriers are thanked in special ways during Christmas!  Their feet carry good tidings to us.

The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, tells us:  How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings.  Whose feet?  The feet of our Lord.  The feet that at His birth were the feet of a baby!  The message we receive powerfully is that God becomes totally helpless and at the mercy of our humanity.  God becomes powerless even though He is all powerful.  The striking contrasts of this day should be in our hearts:  God is a baby.  God is human.  God is weak and at our mercy.  God hands his love over to our sinfulness.  God loves us always even when we do not love in return, almost like a refused receipt of mail.  Can you imagine how it would feel receiving a previously sent, carefully chosen Christmas card in the mail with the inglorious stamp RETURN TO SENDER?  Such an exchange falls far short of the full message God wants to share with us.

The Letter to the Hebrews describes how God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors.  Similar to internet greeting cards that communicate in partial ways to technologically challenged recipients!  Likewise, for some people holiday gatherings can be too large to navigate and to interact with all the participants with in-depth exchanges in a week, let alone in a short couple of hours in a parish hall, office, or school.  In a direct and intense way God sends His Son, who is the refulgence of His glory, the very imprint of His being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.  This is different from previous ancient messages, but do we consistently receive the message?

When we look at and hear Jesus we are always put to the test.  Jesus is God but is meek and humble.  Jesus is the reflection of the glory of God and yet is humiliated and punished for our sins.  Jesus sustains all things by His mighty word.  At his birth His word was the simple cry of an infant.

The mystery of the birth of Jesus can captivate our hearts and lead us to follow Him.  We began with CHRIST IS BORN FOR US!  And we know His message has changed our world.  Let us receive the messengers and the message, and let it “not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I intend” (Is 55:11). May we demonstrate how His birth and His message has changed our commitment to the poor, to our neighbors, and how we manifest our gratitude to our merciful and loving God.  Have a joyous Christmas!