Msgr. Joseph Prior

Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Masses, Dec. 24 and 25.)

 

The Wright brothers were at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina working on their “flying machine.” They were trying to get it to fly all December. Finally toward the end of the month, after many attempts and adjustments, it worked. They telegraphed their sister Katherine the good news: “We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas.”

Katherine took the telegraph to the local newspaper and showed the editor. He read the telegraph and said: “How nice. The boys will be home for Christmas.” He totally missed the big news, that for the first time in human history, man had flown.

We have much to celebrate for today is Christmas. Many of us will gather with family and friends today and in the days ahead. There will be much joy, laughter and love. Decorations are up. The lights are on. The Christmas trees are full of ornaments, many of which recall memories of past Christmases. Great and festive meals will be shared. The joy of Christmas will be present. In all these wonderful activities we want to be sure we don’t miss or forget “the big news” — Jesus Christ, the savior of the world, is born.

The Gospel readings for Christmas vary according to the Mass celebrated. Each of these Gospel passages captures the “big news” in different ways and settings. At the Vigil we hear the Genealogy and Annunciation to Joseph (from the Gospel of Matthew) in which the angel says that Jesus is Emmanuel, “God with us.” The child born this night comes to free us from our sins and reunite us with God.

The geneology recalls that God has a plan for our salvation. Even though we have sinned, God does not stop loving us. He wants us to be saved through one like us. Hearing the names as we go through the geneology we are reminded of God’s faithfulness. Sometimes the figures in the geneology cooperated with God’s plan and moved it forward. Other times their foibles would seem to have the power to stop God’s plan, but they don’t. God can work even through or around our foibles. He wants to save us and has saved us in Christ Jesus, his Son.

The Mass at Night has the Nativity account from the Gospel of Luke. Here is recalled the birth of Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. The angels appear to the shepherds announcing the “good news of great joy that will be for all people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you.”

The shepherds remind us of all the faithful who have recognized the good news announced by the angel. Before the shepherds go to the manger to rejoice with the Holy Family, they see a multitude of angels who praise God saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” The great news calls us to praise God for his goodness and love.

The Mass at Dawn picks up the Lukan account and recalls the shepherds now making haste to visit the newborn Jesus. They share their encounter with the angels with Mary and Joseph. After that they returned home “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.” The news is so great that it must be shared. Great joy comes to those who recognize the birth of the messiah.

The Masses during the Day have the Prologue to John’s Gospel as the gospel reading. Here we recall “The Word was made flesh and made his dwelling among us and we have seen His glory; the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

God’s love for mankind is so great that he actually takes on flesh, lowers himself to share in our humanity. When the “Word,” the Son of God, takes on flesh, he becomes human. He takes on our humanity so that we might become divine. This is the goal God has for us, so great is his love. In and through Jesus we come to know God’s love. We are not alone in this world for God has “made his dwelling” (or literally “pitched his tent”) among us.

As we celebrate Christmas we rejoice in the love of God the Father in sending us his Son Jesus. We rejoice that the day of salvation is upon us. This is the “big news” for which we have been waiting. May all the activities and festivities of the season be filled with the praise of God for sending us his Son, for the day of salvation has dawned.