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Engaging the Word: On Christmas

For the Masses of Christmas the Church turns to the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John, as Mark’s Gospel has no discussion of Jesus’ life before his baptism in the Jordan and subsequent public ministry.
For the vigil Mass we hear from Matthew. Writing primarily for Jewish Christians, Matthew opens his account with a genealogy that places Jesus squarely within the Jewish family, the fulfillment of generations of faith. He then recounts the story of how Joseph on learning that the woman he planned to marry was already pregnant is inspired to set aside his pride and choose to proceed with the engagement, raising the child as his own. Choosing com-passion, Joseph helped to bring God’s love into the world in the flesh. Had he allowed anger and rage govern his response, there would be no Christmas.
The Masses in the night and at dawn proclaim the most well-known of the Christmas stories. Luke, writing for a mixed congregation of Jewish, Greek, and Roman Christians acknowledges Jesus as a descendent of David but presents the story of his birth in a broader human context. Mary and Joseph are traveling at a time not convenient to them at the direction of authorities of the Roman Empire. Like others forced to travel for the census being taken, they find themselves dealing with the difficulties of life on the road. Not finding a room in Bethlehem they take shelter in a barn where Mary gives birth to a baby boy and lays him in an animal trough. Christmas is the celebration of the Creator of all things entering into creation not on the back of a lightning bolt but in the most humble of circumstances. This is a God who is with us. How is it that a baby in a trough can be a good thing? If such an event were reported on the evening news, it would likely be seen as a terrible tragedy. Instead we are called to see what the Sheppard’s were drawn by the angels to witness, a mother’s love, a father’s care, and the hope of new life. The Sheppard’s material situation was really no different after their encounter with Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, but they went back to work singing praises to God. Encountering the love of God in person and in the human condition, their lives were saved from meaninglessness.
Finally for the Mass during the day we hear the lofty message of the Gospel of John. The Reason for all that is, the Logic underpinning all creation, the singular Word that completely expresses the imagination of God, the Logos who was in the beginning with God and indeed was God took human flesh and came to live with us as one of us, shedding light on human possibility. In humbly choosing to become human, sharing our joys and sorrows, our loving God invites us to share in the divine nature, to become children of God.
This Christmas season let’s take time to ponder these mysteries. Let’s consider how our loving cooperation with our Creator brings God’s goodness into the world. Let’s recall that it is love that creates, sustains, and trans-forms creation. Let’s be grateful as well that the Word, the very Reason for our being, not only chose to give us life but also to share it with us. Let’s let the message of Christmas open our hearts to receive all the love that God desires to give us, and let’s let the Spirit of Christmas embolden us to share God’s love with all creation.

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