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Monday, March 06, 2017

25 December 2016—Christmas—The Nativity

Mass During the Day

This is the first time we've had our own Mass on Christmas. Previously, I've attended either the Vigil Mass or “Midnight” Mass. Sometimes, though not often, I attended Mass on Christmas Day. In preparation for today's homily, I discovered that the readings were different for each of these Masses. I'll briefly share my reflections on each of the Christmas gospels before sharing a few thoughts on today's on today's.

The Vigil gospel is from Matthew, which begins with the genealogy of Jesus before recounting the story of the angel, who appears to Joseph to let him know that Mary has not been unfaithful. The angel counsels Joseph not to abandon her because the Child she is carrying is born of the Holy Spirit. We have to keep in mind that each gospel writer was writing with their specific community. Matthew's community consisted mostly of Jews and were still part of the synagogue. So Matthew's gospel begins with legitimizing Jesus as the Messiah through the genealogy and heavenly conception. 
Then at midnight Mass, we have the most familiar account given to us by Luke. It tells us the journey to Bethlehem because of the census. Luke describes the angels announcing to the shepherds that the Messiah is born and they could find him as “a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” Now Luke is writing for a predominantly gentile Greek-speaking audience. Luke was aware that Christianity was being criticized by people outside the church, who claimed that Jesus was a seditionist and he and his followers are enemies of the Roman Empire. Luke wanted to show that Jesus' life and message were filled with compassion, love and peace and that he had the capacity to heal people. All of which were compatible with being a good citizen of Rome. Luke also wanted to show the gentiles, who were discerning whether to join the Christian community, the miraculous yet humble beginnings of the Christ. 
Now today's gospel is written in a time of division, not unlike our own. The Jewish Christians are in a state of uncertainty because in addition to their expulsion from the synagogue, the Second Coming had not yet happened. John's community desparately needed their hope strengthened. John's gospel begins with the reason and meaning of Incarnation rather than a Nativity story. “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word is with God and is God. “3All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” Christ was with us before we were and is the light and life within us still.

5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it....9The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. ” Some of us participated in a weekly program for Advent called, “In Praise of L/light.” In one of the sessions, we were asked to look at the darkness in our own lives and in our world. When we shine a light in our dark spaces, we can discover ways to overcome it. John want us to see in Christ's love, the Source of love, light and the hope of our own lives and be transformed by it.
In today's Gospel, referred to as The Prologue, John wants us to believe in Jesus and to live the words of our opening hymn, “O come let us adore him.” According to Anglican Bishop John Shelby Spong, we don't adore Christ by becoming religious or by becoming missionaries who seek to convert the world to our own understanding of Jesus. We do it by dedicating our “energies to the task of building a world where everyone in this world has the opportunity to live more fully, love more wastefully and have the courage to be all that they were created to be”. We must resist any prejudice that would hurt or reject someone based on their external characteristic, whether it's race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation,1 because God will's us all to be children in the Divine Household.

John tells us, 18No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” Jesus came into the world to make God known to us. Today's gospel tells us the who and the why of the Incarnation. The author of John tells us this so that we might believe, that is, that we might live full of faith, hope and love. Let the Light that we celebrate today as coming into the world 2000 plus years ago, lighten our hearts and our burdens so that we live our belief that this Light lives within us. Emmanuel, Dios esté con nosotros, Dieu avec nous, God with Us, Merry Christmas.

Please share your thoughts.

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