Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dec 25: The Nativity of the Lord (Day)

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Dec 25: The Nativity of the Lord (Day)
Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; John 1:1-18

The birth of Christ; bringing glad tidings; announcimg peace; bearing good news of salvation. “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” The mystery we celebrate today, the Solemnity of the Birth of our Lord, is about God in His Son Jesus Christ entering into our world; becoming human in order to save us from the darkness of this world. That is great news of joy and peace; news bringing harmony in a fragmented world. That is why at Christmas we joyfully celebrate the Good News announced by the Angel that night: "Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord". We join millions of Christians around the world in celebrating this joyful event of Christ in our midst, the Son of God, who assumes our human flesh, born of the Virgin Mary. That is why we rejoice today, because the salvation promised us is now ful¬filled; our Savior is born; the one bring us good news is already here. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation.” Therefore, “All the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.”

The readings for this Mass During the Day generally proclaim the “cosmic dimensions” of the birth of Jesus. This universal aspect of salvation begins with Psalm 98, “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” Then in the Second Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, Paul speaks of how in former times, God spoke in partial ways through the prophets, but now these last days, God has spoken to us clearly through his Son. The cosmic and eternal aspect of Christ is that the Father has made him “heir of all things.” It is through Him that the Father has created the universe. Christ reflects the glory of the Father, for He is the very imprint of the Father’s being, and the one who sustains all things by His mighty word. The central point of Paul in this passage is that the one born for us – Jesus Christ, is the Son of God, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the Father, ...far superior to the angels. That is why Paul quotes Psalm 2:7, “You are my son; this day I have begotted you.” That is the mystery we celebrate today, the Incarnation. In the Gospel passage, the prologue to John’s Gospel, that mystery is developed further. Let me paraphrase the message. From all eternity, the Word exists with the Father. All things were made through him, for him, and unto him. Everything that comes to life, lives because of him. The eternal Word of God becomes flesh! He empties himself to become one of us, in order to save us! God humbles himself to be born as a baby in the obscurity of Bethlehem. Yet this child who is so alone and humble at birth in Bethlehem is the Lord of all things. Christ left his eternal glory to become one of us to save us. In the Gospel, we find a beautiful way of introducing Jesus as the Word, who is co-eternal with the Father, and through whom all things were made. Gradually, John introduces us to his theological style of contrasting pairs: life and death; light and darkness; acceptance and rejection. But my favourite part of the Gospel passage is just one verse: “From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace.” Jesus comes not only to save us from sin, but also to bring us, from the abundance of God, grace upon grace. Let me explain. Imagine the whole world in disharmony and parish community members becoming so selfish that they cannot help each other. That was the situation in one small parish community. On Christmas vigil, the pastor had invited two children to play the parts of Joseph and Mary in the nativity scene after the Midnight Mass. The scene was set to be in a cave behind the parish church. Although the original idea was to use a doll for the Baby Jesus, the two children, Martin and Beth, searched for a real infant among the families of parishioners. Their search was negative.The two kids were so desparate, but never gave up. They ended up praying to the Holy Family for help. The story comes to a climax when the Virgin Mary places the real Infant Jesus in Beth’s arms. No one in the village realizes what has happened, but a miracle of conversion and reconciliation takes place in the hearts of all present at the cave on that Christmas Night! That is what Christmas is about – self-giving, peace and reconciliation through Jesus, born to save us from our selfishness, and to reconcile us with God and with one another. That for me is one concrete way of capturing the image of “grace upon grace”. That is the grace of salvation that overflows into the lives of people, bringing about a spirit of sharing, peace and harmony in our lives and in the world. That is why we celebrate Christmas with such thankfulness, for all that God has done for us in Christ, from whose “fullness we have all received grace upon grace.” May we open our hearts in order to receive Christ, who brings that grace upon grace into our lives. I wish you a Blessed Joyful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

©2010 John S. Mbinda

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