Christmas Midnight Mass
Is 9:1-6; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’ Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
In the Old Testament, God revealed himself to his people in many different ways: in the cloud (Ex 16:10), in the desert (Nm 3:14; 9:1), on the mountain (Dt 9:10), in the burning bush (Ex 3:4-6). In addition, God spoke to us, his people in an indirect way through the prophets (Heb 1:1). Finally, when the designated time (Rom 5:6) had come, God sent forth his Son to speak to us directly (Gal 4:4).
The designated time was the ripe time, the time when God’s people needed a savior more than ever because they were tired of the decadent situation in the Jewish society at that time. Their religious and civil leaders were on the way downhill. On the political front, the Romans occupied their nation was occupied by the Romans. Therefore, they longed for a messiah to come to liberate them from the foreign occupation, not necessary from sin. Anyway, the birth of Christ changed the reckoning of the world events completely.
Since the birth of Christ, time has been counted all over again. We call this year or that year after the birth of Christ. If events occurred before the birth of Christ, we calculate time in a reverse order. For instance, if a certain event happened before the birth of Christ, we say that event happened in a certain year before the birth of Christ. Historians in the world based on the year of the birth of Christ in order to reckon time. Afterwards they found out they miscalculated the year of the birth of Christ for four or five years. However, they did not want to rectify the correct year of Christ’s birth and the dates of world events because to do so would be very costly and time consuming.
The birth of Christ is the most important event in the human history. However, Jesus came, not just to make a change in the reckoning of time. He came to make a change in the heart of each person: to change the way of our thinking and our viewpoint and our human values. About 700 years before the birth of Christ, Isaiah prophesized: The people, who walked in darkness, have seen a great light (Is 9:1). Isaiah’s prediction about the messiah was fulfilled on the night of Christmas. At the first Christmas, only a few people witnessed the nativity scene: They were Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds, and their cattle (Lk 2:8, 10, 16).In our days, we have seen beautiful nativity scenes.
However, the very place where Jesus was born was the shepherds’ manger, possibly dirty and smelly. How could the shepherds recognize the newborn infant as the Savior? Each one should try to find out an answer for him or her. In order to help us have an adequate answer, we could put the question in a different way. Who is the one who can recognize the footprints and handiwork of God? What spirit or what kind of spirit we should have in order to recognize God’s presence?
Reading the Bible, we can see Mary celebrated Christmas in a different way. The Scripture speaks of her: Mary treasured all these things and reflected on them in her heart (Lk 2:19). Celebrating Christmas in the heart means to open our mind and heart to welcome the Savior. Many of us have been celebrating Christmas for years: ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty or seventy. We are all familiar with the Christmas story: the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus in the manger of Bethlehem, the astrologers coming to offer gold, incense and myrrh. A number of us might have been chosen to act out the role of Joseph, Mary and shepherds in the Christmas pageant. However, has anything changed in our lives?
Since the time of his birth, Jesus has been disturbing people as he did disturb the mind of Herod. His mission was to bring peace. However, his teachings disturbed people first, to make them unhappy with their old self and their own way of life so that he can be in control of their lives and grant them peace and joy.
After our external preparations for Christmas with decorations, sending Christmas cards and gifts, making mangers, we need to set aside some quite time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. God speaks to us in silence. Only in silence, can we be aware of God’s presence and discover the true meaning of Christmas. God has come into our human history over two thousand years ago to reconcile humankind with God.
In addition, God promised to come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. Between these two big comings, God often comes into our lives with his grace, each time we receive a sacrament, each time we pray, each time we do a good work or make a sacrifice for the love of God. As mature Catholics, we should not consider Christmas as a distant event unrelated to our lives.
We have to find out the real meaning for the celebration of Christmas. We have to renew and relive the coming of Christ. In order for God to come and to be in control of our lives, we have to remove obstacles from our lives, so that God can have room to stay in our hearts, to give peace and joy to our lives. That is what Christmas is all about.
Prayer asking Jesus to be born in our heart:
Oh Infant Jesus, born among us.
You were born poor in the manger.
Teach me to prepare for you a manger in my heart,
made up of my prayers, sacrifices, charities
to warm you. Amen
John Tran Binh Trong