The Nativity of the Lord
Scriptures for the Four Masses:
Vigil Mass: Isaiah 62:1-5 + Acts 13:16-17,22-25 + Matthew 1:1-25
Mass during the Night: Isaiah 9:1-6 + Titus 2:11-14 + Luke 2:1-14
Mass at Dawn: Isaiah 62:11-12 + Titus 3:4-7 + Luke 2:15-20
Mass during the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10 + Hebrews 1:1-6 + John 1:1-18
And the Word became flesh / and made his dwelling among us, / and we saw his glory ….
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CCC 456-460, 466: “Why did the Word become flesh?”
CCC 461-463, 470-478: the Incarnation
CCC 437, 525-526: the Christmas mystery
CCC 439, 496, 559, 2616: Jesus is the Son of David
CCC 65, 102: God has said everything in his Word
CCC 333: the incarnate Christ worshipped by the angels
CCC 1159-1162, 2131, 2502: the Incarnation and images of Christ
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Who doesn’t like receiving a gift? It’s only human nature to light up at the chance to receive a gift. However, there are times when receiving a gift can make us unsure about just how to respond.
For example, you are in a large supermarket, and an employee holding a tray of little cheese and weenie sandwiches offers you one. How do you respond? Remembering what your doctor has told you about the shape you’re in, you may say, “No, thank you.” Or maybe in spite of your condition—because you really like those cheese and weenie sandwiches—you may say, “Thank you,” and take three of them.
Or, for example, your spouse on Christmas morning, hands you the keys to a brand new Yukon Denali, or F-150 pickup, or Mustang GT500. One response might be joy: this is just what you’d been dreaming of. Another response might be fear: “What about our finances? How was this paid for?” Yet another response might be suspicion: “Hmmm… He wouldn’t be getting me a gift like this unless he were in need of major absolution. What in the world did he do this time?”
We hesitate when receiving some gifts from some persons. We hesitate because we know that this two-way street of receiving and responding to the gift reflects the relationship between the giver and the receiver. Whether we respond, and how we respond, reflects the relationship that we want to have going forward with the giver.
It can be intimidating, if we look beyond the cuteness of Christmas and instead look intently on the “reason for the season”, to recognize what kind of gift God has given us. God the Father has given us His only-begotten Son for a specific reason.
We have the entire Christmas season to reflect on this gift. Christmas does not end at 11:59 pm on December 25th. Christmas begins with the celebration of Jesus’ birth, but that’s only the first of five mysteries celebrated throughout Christmastide. Christmas Day is followed by the feasts of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; Mary, the Mother of God; the Epiphany of Jesus to the whole world; and finally the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River.
The best way to respond to God the Father’s Gift starts with remembering why God gave us His only Son. God has gifted us with His Son in order to meet our greatest need in this world. What is this need?
We might first consider what it’s not.
Our greatest need is not knowledge: if it were, Jesus would have preached from the Cross, instead of opening not His mouth as the Lamb who was slain.
Our greatest need is not power: if it were, Jesus would have come down from the Cross to show us His strength over the forces of evil.
Our greatest need is not wealth: if it were, Jesus would not have died penniless and wearing a single piece of cloth.
Our greatest need is not the removal of pain from our lives: if it were, Jesus would never allowed nails to pierce His hands and feet; and a sword, His side.
Our greatest need is salvation: the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus accepted the agony of His Passion and Death to open the gates of Heaven for us by offering up His Body and Blood, soul and divinity. In humility, Jesus was born into this world, so that some thirty years later he could die to open the Gates of Heaven. As the saying goes, “the wood of the crib is the Wood of the Cross.”
God the Father sent His divine Son down to earth so that the Father might adopt each of us. The Nativity is the dawning of our life as God’s very dear children. But this new life of ours takes place within Christ. Through grace, each us becomes one member of Christ’s Body, so that we might live on earth, die, and live in Heaven, in Christ. When God adopts us, Christ becomes our life. Saint Paul stated it this way: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” [Galatians 2:20].
Adoration of the Shepherds by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682)