Christmas (Midnight Mass)
GOSPEL: Luke 2:1-14
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Other Readings: Is 9:1-7; Ps 95:1-3, 11-13 Titus 2:11-14
MERRY CHRISTMAS! Yes, during this season that greeting seems to come out of our lips almost automatically when we meet people—whether family or relatives we haven’t seen for a year, friends or even just a complete stranger—to make that instant connection. Merry Christmas! But I wonder what the word ‘merry’ or ‘happy’ means to us. Why are we merry? Why are we happy? What makes us happy this Christmas?
On one level, I can relate with other parents present here, that feeling of happiness in terms of having that sense of a relief. I know how sometimes preparing for Christmas could be so nerve-wracking; what food to prepare for the Christmas feast? What gifts to buy for every child, relative, or friend? Did we miss somebody? I hope all the husbands (attending this Mass) did not forget to buy something for the wives or else it will be LENT or Good Friday for us instead of Christmas!
Indeed, in our present culture and time, Christmas becomes an iconic celebration—the bigger, the more complex, the more hi-tech celebration the better. Furthermore, the secular world has defined Christmas in a more materialist, consumerist and commercialized kind of event when being merry or happy during Christmas more and more depends on how big or expensive the gifts we give or receive; how luxurious our feasts; how expensive our clothes. And so if we cannot provide for some or all of these, Christmas becomes meaningless. Or worse, the coming of Christmas becomes a source of anxiety, dread and loneliness. This is especially relevant in our lives—right here and right now in our communities when we are witnessing people losing their jobs right before Christmas.
A few days ago, I heard from the radio a charity organisation asking for toys for donation; for kids whose family cannot afford to buy them. The man doing the appeal said: “We’re doing this so that these children will not miss out on Christmas.”
But this secular and commercialized notion of Christmas is not the true character and message of Christmas. The Gospel tells us that the birth of Christ—CHRISTMAS—is characterised by simplicity albeit carrying a profound meaning and significance to each and every one of us. Luke puts the birth of Christ in the context of a grand event during the reign of Caesar Augustus—the conduct of an empire-wide census to determine how much wealth the emperor can take from his subjects.
Picture the contrasting image of an emperor making royal decrees in his grand palace in Rome and of an infant in swaddling clothes being cradled by his mother in a manger far away from the centre of power. Furthermore, think about the contrasting message or significance of both images—the former causing anxiety, dread and sadness for people because of the taxes that will be taken from them, while the latter becomes the source of great joy to all that the heavenly angels themselves had to proclaim: “Glory to God in the Highest and on earth PEACE to people of goodwill!”
The great message that we get from that simple nativity scene is the profound truth that GOD LOVES US. He loves us so much that He took off his divinity and became one of us so that in turn we can share his divine nature. Before Christ was born, God’s people called Him LORD. Because of Christ’s birth, we can now call God FATHER! And God calls each one of us: My son; my daughter.
THAT is the reason why we celebrate Christmas! God’s love has been given to everyone—freely, abundantly and unconditionally! And therefore, NOBODY misses out on Christmas!
We may not have expensive gifts or toys. We may not have new clothes. We may have prepared but a simple meal. But if the incarnation of Jesus; of God becoming man is the central focus of our celebration then we can truly say we can have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Christmas.
Merry Christmas! We can say this confidently because as St Paul said in the second reading: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race”; as we worship this child, sing God’s praises this Christmas, we can know with relief that God has acted to save us from ourselves, to heal us of our many conflicts and restore our true joy! ###