Readings & Reflections: Nativity of the Lord, December 25,2014

Readings & Reflections: Nativity of the Lord, December 25,2014

“God’s sign is the baby in need of help and in poverty. Exactly the same sign has been given to us…. God’s sign is simplicity…. God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. This is how he reigns. He does not come with power and outward splendor. He comes as a baby – defenseless and in need of our help. He does not want to overwhelm us with his strength. He takes away our fear of his greatness. He asks for our love: so he makes himself a child. He wants nothing other from us than our love, through which we spontaneously learn to enter into his feelings, his thoughts, and his will – we learn to live with and to practice with him that humility of renunciation that belongs to the very essence of love. God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him…. Christmas has become the Feast of gifts in imitation of God who has given himself to us. Let us allow our heart, our soul, and our mind to be touched by this fact!” (Pope Benedict XVI).

AMDG+

Opening Prayer

“Almighty God and Father of light, your eternal Word leaped down from heaven in the silent watches of the night.  Open our hearts to receive his life and increase our vision with the rising of dawn, that our lives may be filled with his glory and his peace.”

Reading I
Is 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.

The word of the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
R. (3c) All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
his right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Sing praise to the LORD with the harp,
with the harp and melodious song.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
sing joyfully before the King, the LORD.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Reading II
Heb 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.

The word of the Lord.

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.

The Gospel of the Lord.

Reflection 1 – God gave us His most precious gift

What does a man do when a gift is held out to him? If one believes that the gift was really meant for him, with great probability he will stretch out his hand, accept the gift and give thanks to whoever gave it to him.

We celebrate the day when God gave us His most precious gift, the gift of Himself, His Only Begotten Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Receiving God’s gift means believing in Jesus, acknowledging Him as our God and Savior. Stretching out our hands to accept God’s gift to us of eternal life (which we all have in Christ) makes us acceptable to the Father and we become His children.

Today being Christmas Day, we celebrate the great event of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. He was born into a family poor by worldly standards but rich in joy. He was born into a world completely helpless and without anyone’s knowledge. Yet He is God with us and He came to fill our hearts with grace. He came into the world to show all of us the way. He became a man among men, a man for others, so that in Him and through Him, all of us will all be profoundly renewed.

As we celebrate the foundation of our faith, let us all draw closer to God, receive and truly acknowledge His precious gift.

Let us rejoice in Jesus and His merits, for through Him we are all acceptable to the Father and have become His very own.

Christ is born for us! Come, let us adore him!

Direction

Receive Jesus in our hearts by sharing Him with everyone.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for making your salvation known. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Reflection 2 – Born in Our Hearts

A very devout couple decided to spend Christmas Eve right in the very birthplace of Jesus – Bethlehem. Unfortunately, despite a thorough search of the whole place, they could not find a vacant room for them. Desperate, they tried the most expensive hotel, willing to pay the rate at any cost. The man approached the front desk and heard the now-familiar response: “Sorry, Sir. All rooms are occupied. It’s Christmas Eve, you know.” He offered to pay any amount for a room, but there was none, according to the clerk. Finally, the man told the clerk, “I bet if I told you my name was Joseph, that the woman waiting in the car was called Mary, and that she is pregnant, you’d find us a room.”

”Well,” stammered the clerk, “I– I suppose so.”

”Okay,” said the man. “I guarantee you, they’re not coming tonight, so we’ll take their room.” (Adaptation from M. Ezeogu).

Once again, Christmas is here. We commemorate that great event when the Son of God, conceived in the virginal womb of the Blessed Mother, was born into the world. And so we exclaim, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” Merry Christmas to all!

This is the most awaited feast that we Christians celebrate. There is abundance of color, merriment and joy all around. Yet despite all these exciting events and gatherings, we cannot fail to notice the superficiality and even the emptiness of the celebration for many people. The reason is simple. Like the people of Bethlehem, many of us respond with the same attitude and disposition: “There is no room in our inn.”

Yes, we have room for almost everything associated with Christmas – parties, caroling, dancing, shows, decorations, and many things besides. They fill up not only our calendars but also our minds and hearts during these days, that we have no more room for the newborn Savior. He knocks at the door of our hearts, wanting to enter and be part of our life. Unfortunately, we are already too occupied with the superficial and material concerns and activities.

It is really fortunate that, as Filipinos, we have our traditional nine-day Aguinaldo Masses or Simbang Gabi. It helps us focus our attention on the center of Christmas – the newborn Jesus. We come to dawn Mass for nine days, recognizing that Christmas is the “Mass of Christ.” As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “To each and everyone He comes as if He had never come before in His own sweet way, He the Child who is born…   Jesus the Savior, He Emmanuel, He, Christ as Christ’s Mass on Christmas!” Indeed, the Eucharist must occupy center place in the celebration of Christmas for, in every Mass, Jesus is born on the altar. In the message of the Blessed Mother given to Fr. Gobbi in the Blue Book, she called the Eucharist as the “perennial Nativity.”

Yet, despite this beautiful religious tradition, one may still wonder how genuine is our preparation to welcome the Lord Jesus. Our churches are filled up and overflowing for these nine days of Simbang Gabi. But I could count with my fingers the parishioners who came for Confession. Meister Eckhart once said: “What good is it that Christ was born 2,000 years ago if he is not born now in your heart?” (Living Faith, v. 4, n. 3). And according to Helen Keller, “The only real blind person at Christmas-time is he who has not Christmas in his heart.”

If Christ is born in our heart, it is always possible to celebrate Christmas not only in December, but even everyday. This is what St. Paul of the Cross insisted: “Celebrate the feast of Christmas every day, even every moment in the interior temple of your spirit, remaining like a baby in the bosom of the heavenly Father, where you will be reborn each moment in the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.”

Needless to say, therefore, there is a clear need for sincere and regular examination of conscience and the grace of the sacrament of Confession so that our interior being will be made ready to receive the Lord. This will always lead us to genuine humility, recognizing how unworthy we are for such a great gift. A humble heart is what will help us capture the true spirit of Christmas, for in the Incarnation, God humbled Himself, “being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:8).

A non-Catholic author, Morton Kelsey, puts it beautifully: “I am very glad Jesus was born in a stable because my soul is very much like a stable filled with strange and unsatisfactory longings, with guilt and animal-like impulses…tormented by anxiety, inadequacy, and pain. If Christ could be born in such a place, He can be born in me also. I am not excluded.”

Indeed, “It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air” (W.T. Ellis). Let me end with this simple yet profound thought on Christmas:

“It’s sharing your gifts; not purchasing gifts;

It’s not wrapping presents; it’s being present
and wrapping your arms around the ones you love;

It’s not getting Christmas cards out on time; it’s sending any card, anytime, at the right time;

It’s not having the biggest and best Christmas light display; it’s displaying the Christ light that comes from your heart;

It’s not Santa coming down the chimney; it’s Jesus coming down from heaven
and giving us the gift of eternal life.” (Anon)

Let this prayer of Meister Eckhart be ours, too: “Lord, be born in my heart. Come alive in me this Christmas! Amen.” (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).

Reflection 3 – The Promise Kept

Purpose: Like the shepherds, we run to Bethlehem to see what the angels spoke of: we return rejoicing, because it is exactly as we have been told.

Readings: Isaiah 62:11-12; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20
http://usccb.org/bible/readings/122514-dawn-mass.cfm

The old Irish Christmas carol begins:

Good people all, this Christmas-time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done,
In sending His beloved Son.
With Mary holy we should pray
To God with love this Christmas Day:
In Bethlehem upon that morn
There was a blessed Messiah born.

Christmas Day has come. The preparation is over, the fever of shopping has broken, stillness and silence greet the dawn of this new day; and what have we? Almost indiscernibly, today’s dawn brings something new. The world seems no different than it was yesterday, the sun rises, and this evening it will set. War and fear still threaten the earth. Tears still fall. Yet, there is something different today. Like the Shepherds, we must say, “let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

Since childhood, we have been told of God’s love for us. We repeat St. John’s words, “God is love” over and over again; but do we really believe it? If we did, would it not change everything? Today, of all days, we have the perfect opportunity to discover that love. Sometimes, we think it’s all made up—too good to be true. In a world that is far from perfect, to paraphrase Harold Kushner, where bad things happen to good people, the reality of God’s goodness may seem remote.

What are we told? The Angel says, “Do not be afraid, I bring you news of great joy.”

Christmas morning is the promise of the new heaven and the new earth. This is the day longed for by prophets and sages of old. This Christmas morning is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s promise to save his people.

The Birth of Jesus is not the end, it is the beginning of God’s eternal promise to save us; from despair and darkness, from sin and death. God’s power is made visible in a Little Baby, the most helpless of all creatures.

We gaze into the crib this day. We see the Baby and His Holy Mother. The ox and ass witness this great event as the dawn breaks. It is too beautiful to describe. Soon however, our gaze will change. Soon we will not look down and adore, but look up and adore, as that Little One opens his arms on the Cross. His mother will not kneel and sing, but will stand and weep. The witnesses on that day will shield their eyes at the sight of God’s Son suffering for all humanity. His first resting place is an animal’s stock, his final resting place, a cold tomb. The sun will set in sorrow. As this this new day rises, so will he! On that day, the Shepherds and Angels will rejoice to see the promises of God fulfilled. We will see!

Did you notice what happens at the end of the story today? When the Shepherds returned home after seeing, they were changed. They went home rejoicing! And why? “Because it was exactly as they had been told!” The tidings of great joy were not just for the Shepherds, they were to be shared with all the people. They were for you and for me.

In Bethlehem upon this morn, there is a blessed Messiah born.

In the cold light of this early morning, we look around. We gather with our families and our friends, we gather as the Church. Today, we witness that God’s Word is not, and never has been, empty. What God says, he means. Today, he says to you and me, do not be afraid! Do not be afraid of this world, do not be afraid of death, do not be afraid of the dark; for I have conquered it!

We will leave this place and return to our homes. Gifts will be opened, food and drink consumed. The holiday season will end. What we celebrate today will never end. When we do go from here, we, too, should be like the shepherds, dancing and singing for joy! When the Christmas decorations are back in their boxes, our hearts should still be giddy. When winter changes to spring, and spring to summer, the joy of this morning will always be in our hearts.

Jesus Christ is born. The Angels sing God’s praise, the Shepherds rejoice. This joy, to be shared by all the people, has reached our ears. We, too, sing and rejoice: and why, because it is exactly as we have been told!

Reflection 4 – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

On this day the Church focuses especially on the newborn Child, God become human, who embodies for us all the hope and peace we seek. We need no other special saint today to lead us to Christ in the manger, although his mother Mary and Joseph, caring for his foster-Son, help round out the scene.

But if we were to select a patron for today, perhaps it might be appropriate for us to imagine an anonymous shepherd, summoned to the birthplace by a wondrous and even disturbing vision in the night, a summons from an angelic choir, promising peace and goodwill. A shepherd willing to seek out something that might just be too unbelievable to chase after, and yet compelling enough to leave behind the flocks in the field and search for a mystery.

On the day of the Lord’s birth, let’s let an unnamed, “un-celebrity” at the edge of the crowd model for us the way to discover Christ in our own hearts—somewhere between skepticism and wonder, between mystery and faith. And, like Mary and the shepherds, let us treasure that discovery in our hearts.

Read the source: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1240

Comment:

The precise dating in this passage sounds like a textbook on creationism. If we focus on the time frame, however, we miss the point. It lays out the story of a love affair: creation, the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt, the rise of Israel under David. It climaxes with the birth of Jesus. From the beginning, some scholars insist, God intended to enter the world as one of us, the beloved people. Praise God!