CHRISTMAS, 2018 – VIGIL
1) Isaiah 62:1-5
2) Acts 13:16-17, 22-25
3) Matthew 1:1-25 or 1:18-25
Gospel related: CCC 333, 430, 437, 452, 486, 497, 744, 1507, 1846, 2666, 2812; CSDC 378
FOCUS: God has a plan – a plan to offer us salvation and fill us with his love.
A difficult challenge in many Christian circles is to attempt to read the whole Bible in a year. In doing this, a person begins with the Book of Genesis with the creation of the world and ends with the new heavens and the new earth in Revelation; they begin with Adam and end with Jesus. What becomes abundantly clear as a person works their way through the Bible is that this is a love story. The entire Bible is a love story, a real-life tale of God seeking after us. From the very beginning of time, God has had a plan – a plan to offer us salvation and to fill us with his love. That plan finds its realization today. God has entered into human history, He has taken on our nature; he is Emmanuel – God is with us.
Today we celebrate the fact that God has pursued us with reckless love. That throughout all of human history, he never gave up on us, but continued to call us into a relationship with him. The glory that we experience today is that Jesus freely chose to take on our nature in order to offer us salvation. No more shall people call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,” Isaiah says, but you shall be called “My Delight”, and your land “Espoused.” For the Lord delights in you. This delight is not just a feeling or sentiment, but has resulted in action – today Jesus Christ is born for us.
But we must recognize that God will never force himself upon us. He will call and invite, but never demand. Joseph models a proper response to God’s invitation. Even when he doesn’t completely understand, even when he’s confused about how or why God is acting in a certain way, he still chooses to obey. Because of this, Joseph took Mary into his home to care for her and protect her, and Jesus was born. The angel had promised him, She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. When we participate and obey God’s plan for us, amazing things will happen.
As we celebrate God’s love for us during this Christmas season, we recognize that God wants to work in and through us like he did with Joseph and Mary. In following God’s plan for our life, we are able to bring Jesus into the world.
CHRISTMAS, 2018 – NIGHT
1) Isaiah 9:1-6
2) Titus 2:11-14
3) Luke 2:1-14
Gospel related: CCC 333, 437, 448, 486, 515, 525, 559, 695, 725
FOCUS: In the beauty of Christmas, God embraces our humanity so that we may embrace his divinity.
Christmas is a time of year that seems to naturally encourage us to share greetings of peace and love, revealed in the tender hugs we often exchange with one another. We share these expressions of mutual affection as a way of showing our love and support for one another, and as a way to grow in relationship with one another. There is something about the words and gestures that we exchange at Christmas that reveals a sort of vulnerability that we might not otherwise show at other times of the year.
The vulnerability and love that we so easily show one another at Christmas mirrors God’s own vulnerability and love for us in the great mystery of the Incarnation. Each year at Christmas, we recall that the Son of God has embraced us and all humanity in a tender yet powerful way.
When Jesus was born in the Bethlehem manger, God came to us with a human face. In the Incarnation, the all-powerful God of the Universe embraced the fragile human race as a tiny, vulnerable baby. In a manner beyond the power of speech, God shared a greeting of peace with us on that first Christmas night, and drew us into a warm and loving embrace.
At Christmas, we remember that God not only chose to embrace us, but that he wanted to do so. After centuries of holy men and women – of prophets, priests and kings, and their unceasing efforts to speak and act on behalf of God – God made a definitive statement, not acting remotely or from a distance, but rather coming in person to show how much he desires a personal relationship with each and every one of us. Just as the tiny Christ child was embraced and lovingly placed in the manger, that same tiny Christ child offered a loving embrace of the entire human race, showing in his tender love a better way for us to live as the children of God.
In the quiet beauty of Christmas, we are reminded that Jesus chose to embrace our human frailty, and to begin the process of lifting us heavenward. In time, his embrace would cause him to take upon himself even our faults and shortcomings, in order to do for us what we could never do for ourselves: be our Savior. In so doing, Jesus encourages us to embrace a better way of living – a holy way of living – a way that leads to life in its fullness. In the midst of the miracle that is Christmas, Jesus teaches us that the fullness of life comes through embracing a way of living that makes us deeply open to and vulnerable to the love and grace of God.
THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD SOLEMNITY
(Mass During the Day)
FOCUS: The Son of God shares in our human life and we share in his divine life.
Today, the world recalls that the Son of God was born in the small town of Bethlehem. We rightfully celebrate that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. But do we fully appreciate all the ramifications of this greatest Christmas gift?
Soon after today’s celebrated idyllic scene of the birth in the manger – with curious animals, marveling shepherds, adoring wise men – we will begin to see the totality of Christ’s salvific mission. This God-made-man lived on this earth for a very short time, and often under the shadow of persecution and doubt (CCC 530). His parents fled to Egypt, innocent babes were slaughtered, kings saw him as a threat, neighbors didn’t believe him and critics labeled him as a blasphemer. Jesus preached a message of peace and reconciliation, yet some rejected his words. He restored people to health and brought them back to life, yet accepted his own death on a cross. Finally, he rose triumphant from the grave. We know this Jesus. We know the rest of his story.
Today, the beginning of John’s Gospel reminds us of the source of that story – Jesus’ divinity. He was God who existed at the beginning of time. He was God the Son who knew God the Father and revealed him to anyone who would listen. He was God who was conceived in human form by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet he was a God who knew human hearts and understood human frailties. The very purpose of his Incarnation was to raise us up, to save us from our sins, to put us back into right relationship with God, and to give us, once again, a share in the divine life. God has spoken to us through the Son.
As we busy ourselves with activities today, let us take time to marvel at our participation in the divine life. Made in God’s image, we, too, are children of God, born of God in baptism. From the fullness of Christ, we have all received grace. Sinners though we are, we have been redeemed from a life of sin. Self-centered though we may be, we are capable of love. Skeptical though we may be, we have been blessed with the ability to see the good in others. Selfish though we may be, we have been moved to compassion for the immigrant, the poor and the sick.
Long after the manger in Bethlehem and the grave in Jerusalem, Christ continues to share his divine life with us. Christ is present at every Mass we offer, at every sacrament we celebrate, at every blessing we pray. The Word is present when every word of his Scripture is proclaimed. Christ is present in every jail cell, in every sick room, in every lonely corner. He is present when we invoke his name in prayer, and even when we do not. This is how we share in his divine life – imbued with his grace, surrounded by his Spirit, molded by his message. Today and every day, let us be attentive to his sanctifying grace and become what we are truly meant to become.
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