CHRISTMAS: Mass during the Day
(Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18)
What a wonderful evocation of appreciation, joy, and gratitude Isaiah offers us in the words:
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace!
The holy city had been under long siege; all around friendly and dependant cities and towns had been overrun. Hope was as much in evidence as the almost non-existent food, as low as the few pictures-full of water available from what had once been deep, brim-top-lapping, cisterns. The army had gone out to fight indeed, but they left more in desperation than in expectation; some of the people had cheered them on their way, but without conviction; prayers also had been offered, but with lips that trembled; and now those left inside the city walls wait in anxious silence, with hearts unable to shake off a dark foreboding of what might soon befall them.
Eventually a runner is noticed in the distance by those watching from the walls. He had been expected of course. But, as they watch him, they begin to look at one another in disbelief: this runner is running strongly, running confidently; he is not pumping his arms in agonizing effort, he is raising them, waving them exultantly! He is, surely:
Bearing glad tidings, announcing peace!
At such a sight, first of all the watchmen on the towers, then, gradually, all the citizens within the walls begin, in unconscious obedience to those prophetic words of exhortation:
Break out together in song, O ruins of Jerusalem!
to join in a public delirium of thanksgiving and praise, while the priests solemnly intone:
The LORD has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem!
Now, Jesus comes to us each year at Christmas like that runner, bringing -- indeed, He Himself being – the supreme cause for our total joy. Whatever the past year may have brought along with it, and no matter how miserable our own record might have been over that period, He comes once again, to re-assure us that our God reigns, despite the disaffection of many who no longer call themselves His disciples, despite the increasing mockery of those who have always denied or gainsaid Him, despite the faint-heartedness of those who look to the Church and doubt … not His presence there because her dogma still protects them … but the featurelessness of His presence which their faith does not allow them to discern.
He comes to His Church, as we heard in the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, as One:
Who (is) the refulgence of (God’s) glory and the very imprint of His Being.
And therefore, seeing Him, we can be absolutely confident and sure that God is both able and willing to reign for us and in us through her, if we, for our part, are both humble enough to turn away from ourselves, and faithful enough to turn to Him in all confidence and sincerity.
Now, this rejoicing unique to the Christian celebration of Christmas, is much more than mere joy for our heart; for, as our reading from the letter to the Hebrews told us, Jesus is:
God’s Son, heir of all things, through Whom He created the universe; Who sustains all things by His mighty word;
to which, St. John in our Gospel reading, adds that:
In Him (is) life, and the life (is) the light of men.
Therefore, Jesus’ coming means not merely present joy for our heart, but also fulfilment for our whole being, since He is the life and strength of our being, the light and pattern for our living.
Moreover, when He comes, He manifests to us and indeed invites us a share in:
His glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.
By sharing that glory with us, He wills to transform all who believe in Him from mere human beings into children of God, as St. John tells us:
To those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.
Children reborn, that is, no longer arising from merely human stock through the will of our parents before us, but born anew -- of water and the Holy Spirit -- by God’s free gift and our own free will expressing itself through the obedience of faith.
And it is as such children, reborn of water and the Spirit, that we too can say with St. John:
The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father’ only Son, full of grace and truth.
Our right beholding of the glory of the Word-become-flesh proves that we do indeed share that glory which is His as the only-Begotten Son of the Father, in Whom we, as the letter to the Hebrews puts it, are:
As far superior to the angels as the name He has inherited -- and we have, by adoption in Him, been given -- is more excellent than theirs.
And so, reborn and renewed in Jesus, sharing His glory which enables us to live through faith and by His Spirit, our Christmas joy and hope is crowned and completed by the Father Himself Who now says (2 Corinthians 6:18):
I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters.
Once reborn in Jesus, and bequeathed the right to become children of God for all eternity, we have an endowment that we must bring to maturity by a life of faithful love and grateful obedience. Each year Jesus comes to refresh our hope, bolster our confidence, and encourage our progress, which is why, during Advent time Mother Church cries out to us repeatedly:
Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him! (Matthew 25:6)
Every Christmas morning we do just that, we come to Church to meet the Lord with lighted lamps that shine with admiration and love, gratitude and praise,. Ultimately, the time will arrive – and, at the deepest level, we are preparing for that time – when the Lord will come to each and every one of us and call us -- as He did Lazarus in the tomb -- to go forth from this world to meet Him. Let us, therefore, welcome Him this day as we wish to embrace Him on that our final day, when earth’s fading and fitful light is seen to be transforming into the dawn of eternal glory.