THE BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST, OUR LORD AND SAVIOR
(A biblical reflection [Midnight Mass] on THE DAY OF CHRISTMAS [YEAR A], 25 December 2010)
Gospel Reading: Lk 2:1-14
First Reading: Is 9:1-6; Psalms: Ps 96:1-3,11-12,13; Second Reading: Tit 2:11-14
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrolment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!” (Lk 2:1-14 RSV)
Christmas celebrates light overcoming darkness. The darkness of the night can suggest danger and hostility. It can arouse feelings of fear, uncertainty and loneliness. It often is an especially difficult time for those who are sick, and yet the night can be a turning point for them. Those few who are keeping a quiet vigil at the bedside observe that the patient becomes restful; his/her temperature goes down; the crisis passes, and there is born in their hearts a new hope for recovery, health and happiness.
Some seven hundred years before Christ, the prophet Isaiah wrote in prophecy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. …… Thou hast increased its joy …… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ ” (Is 9:2). Christmas is the perfect fulfilment of those words, an event of great hope which took place in the dark stillness of night. It was the turning point for the whole human race, sick almost to death with the illness of sin. The crisis passed with the birth of a child in Betlehem of Judea. Only a few observed the event: Mary, Joseph and the shepherds – but they knew with joy beyond description that with the birth of Jesus there was born a new hope for recovery from sin, and a new hope for spiritual health and eternal happiness.
A newly born child is a natural sign of hope. His/her parents pray that he/she will grow and develop into someone important and famous, someone of value and worth. We do not exactly know what the thoughts of expectation were in May’s mind as she looked upon her Son for the first time. We are not quite sure whether Mary even then had an image of how her Son was to be of value and worth to His fellow human beings. As she looked on the smooth, soft infant’s flesh which she had given Him, did she know that she would see that flesh torn and lacerated in the crucifixion? Did she realize that the precious blood which was then giving a healthy hue to her baby’s face would one day be drained from His body on the cross? These things we are not certain of, but when the day of sacrifice did come Mary understood that her Son was giving Himself for all of us, for our spiritual health and eternal happiness.
Mary at Christmas looked to the future with hope. We now look to the past, not only upon the birth of Jesus, but also upon His death and resurrection, the means of our salvation. But we wonder where is the spiritual health, where is the happiness He came to bring? The world still seems sick with the illness of sin. There is poverty, hatred, injustice and war, rather than peace on earth.
The reason for all this is that salvation does not occur automatically. Each and every one of us must learn to live like Jesus, to share His love for God and for our fellow human beings. With His birth the turning point was indeed reached, the crisis was over. But much remains to be done before the world fully recovers. Each one of us individually must contribute to that recovery by the way in which we live. Our flesh will be torn and lacerated in the struggle against sin. Even our blood will be drained in the battle against hatred and war.
This Christmas, however, is a sign of joyful hope, because Christmas is meant to be a new birth for Jesus. Jesus gives us His flesh and blood in communion, with the plea that we will give Him our flesh and blood so that His goodness and love may continue in the world today. He wishes to be born again in us like a little baby, a baby who is a sign of hope.
Short Prayer: Jesus, my Lord and my Savior, I love You! Thank You for coming into the world and into my heart. I rejoice that I have been blessed to see Your glory in my life. You are indeed a sign of hope for everyone. On this special day, let me speak of the joy of Your coming to everyone I meet! Amen.
Jakarta, 24 December 2010
A Christian Pilgrim