Christmas

By   December 14, 2016

Synopsis: Christmas Dawn Mass (Is 62:11-12; Ti 3: 4-7; Lk 2:15-20)

Introduction: The main theme of this Mass at Dawn is an invitation to enjoy, by a life of sharing love, the lasting peace and celestial joy brought by the Divine Savior.  St. John gives the main reason for our Christmas joy in his Gospel (3:16): For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that every one who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. God showed His love for sinful man by sharing His love with us in His Son, Incarnate as Jesus in Bethlehem, Who, in turn, saved us by His suffering, death and Resurrection.

Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows the Jews their God as a saving God Who will extend His redemption to His holy city. In the second reading, St. Paul tells Titus that God saves us through His Son Jesus, not because we have deserved it by our good deeds, but because of His mercy. Jesus continues His saving mission by allowing us to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, thus enabling us to become Gods children and heirs of eternal life.  Describing the response of the shepherds to the angelic message, todays Gospel invites us to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and to bear witness to Him through our lives by sharing love with others.

Life messages: 1) We need to be Christ-bearers and Christ-givers:  Since it is Jesus Who gives real meaning to our celebrations, Jesus must be reborn in us each time we celebrate Christmas.   Hence, let us leave a room in the innof our hearts for Jesus to be reborn in our lives. Let us remember the famous lines of Alexander Pope: What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, if He is not born in my heart?”  So let us pray for the grace of Jesusbirth in each one of us today, bringing us love, mercy, kindness and compassion to give away.  Let us help all those around us to experience the newly-born Savior Jesus within us – as sharing love in the form of compassionate words, unconditional love and forgiveness, selfless service, merciful deeds and overflowing generosity.   2) We need to listen to God speaking to us every day and respond promptly, as the shepherds did: There isn’t one of us in this Church this morning who hasn’t had God speak to him or her in some personal way. It may not have happened as dramatically as it did with these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to our soul and spirit. Too often, however, we have chosen not to listen. Have we ever had an argument with a member of our family, and heard that inner voice deep down within us telling us to stop, and we knew we should stop? Have we ever had that same inner sense of knowing we needed to do something or to avoid doing something? That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Spirit sent to us by the Father at the request of Jesus our Savior. Whether or not we chose to listen in those cases really isn’t the point. The point is that God has indeed spoken to us and He continues to speak to us right now. How are we going to respond? Will we respond as Mary did, as the shepherds did and as the magi did? Or not? L/16

CHRISTMAS MASS AT DAWN: Is 62: 11-12; Ti 3:4-7; Lk 2:15-20

(The theme: The joy and peace of the Savior through sharing love)

Anecdote: #1) Sharing the sorrow of chemotherapy: An 11-year-old boy with cancer lost all the hair on his head as a result of chemotherapy treatment.  When the time came for him to return to school, he and his parents experimented with hats, wigs, and bandanas to try to conceal his baldness.  They finally settled on a baseball cap, but the boy still feared the taunts he would receive for looking “different.”  Mustering up courage, he went to school wearing his cap – and discovered to his great surprise that all of his friends had shaved their heads to share their solidarity with their friend.   It was their way of expressing their love and sympathy. No wonder God became man to express His love for mankind!

Introduction: The readings for this Mass at Dawn offer us an invitation to enjoy, by a life of sharing love, the lasting peace and celestial joy brought by the Divine Savior.  St. John gives the main reason for our Christmas joy in his Gospel (3:16): For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that every one who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. God showed His love for sinful man by sharing His love with us in the form of Jesus in Bethlehem. Jesus, in turn, saved us by His suffering, death and Resurrection. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows the Jews their God as a saving God Who will extend His redemption to His Holy City. In the second reading, St. Paul tells Titus that God saves us through His Son Jesus, not because we have deserved it by our good deeds, but because of His mercy. Jesus continues His saving mission by allowing us to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, thus enabling us to become Gods children and heirs of eternal life.  Describing the response of the shepherds to the angelic message, todays Gospel invites us to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and to bear witness to Him through our lives, by sharing love with others.

First reading, Isaiah 62:11-12: Around 600 BC, the Babylonians took the Jews out of the Promised Land and kept them in exile (the Babylonian Captivity), for about 70 years. When Cyrus, a new Persian emperor, took over Babylon, he sent the Jews home. This reading is set in that troubled period, when Judah was trying to put itself back together after returning from Exile. Daughter Zion means (the people of) the city, Jerusalem. This was Judah’s capital, in the center of which stands Mount Zion, the Temple awaited rebuilding. The gist of this short passage is that the people should keep up their spirits, because soon they and their city will enjoy prosperity and international renown again, and their city will frequently be visited by tourists, instead of remaining a ghost city. In other words, Gods own people are going to experience the saving and providing love of their God.

Second Reading, Titus 3:4-7: This passage is classic Pauline teaching, showing us that God saves us by incorporating us into Christ which is the real cause of Christian, and Christmas, joy. Among the congregation served by the early Bishop Titus were Christians who believed they had to practice the laws of Judaism and to impose those laws on pagan converts to Christ. Paul reminds them that God saved us “not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy.” In other words, law-driven righteous deeds don’t win our salvation; God gives it to us freely. We accept that gift by taking the bath of rebirth, Baptism, when the Spirit is richly poured out on us. This, not our observance of laws, makes us justified (right with God), and that justificationgives us the hope of eternal life.

Exegesis: The shepherds, the first visitors and the first missionaries: The orthodox Jews in Jesustime despised the shepherds because these men were quite unable to observe the ceremonial laws in all their details. In addition, shepherds had no spare time to take part in synagogue services nor to study Torah because shepherding was a full-time job. These shepherds with whom Jesus chose to share His love on Christmas day might have been the special shepherds in charge of the Temple sheep which were set aside for the daily morning and evening sacrifice of unblemished lambs. If so, no wonder their shepherds were blessed with the unique privilege of seeing the Divine Child – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! They responded to this great privilege by bearing witness to God, by praising God and by spreading the news of the birth of a Savior. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.Christmas, the feast of EmmanuelGod is with us – challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame fear to find Him, or like the Magi who traveled and searched for Him. We should have the generosity and good will to search for Him and find Him in unlikely places and persons. That is made possible for us only if we welcome Jesus in Bethlehem into our lives by allowing Him to be reborn in us. Then we will have the real experience of Christmas and the joy of the Savior.

The angelic choir and their angelic message: Normally, when a boy was born into a Jewish family, the local musicians congregated at the house to greet him with country music. Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angels sang the songs for Jesus that the earthly singers could not sing. The angels told the shepherds to rejoice because the Savior had come:  Luke 2: 10-11: Dont be afraid.   I am here with Good News for you, which will bring great joy to all people.   This very day in Davids town, a Savior has been born for youChrist the Lord.” We rejoice today with those shepherds because we have a Savior who can free us from the bondage of sin.   We have a Savior who liberates us from our slavery to impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts, desires and habits.   We have a Savior Who can, and will, release us from our evil addictions, heal our physical and mental diseases and free us from hatred, enmity, jealousy and bitterness.

Saviors and the Savior:  History tells us that there has been no shortage of false liberators and pseudo-saviors who have deceived generations of people all around the world.   The Greek philosophers believed that education and knowledge would liberate the world.   Later, rationalists like Voltaire and Rousseau taught that mere human reason, alone, provided an antidote for all human ills.   Revolutionary movements, such as Communism, have offered mankind the dream of an earthly paradise.   Today, many people   advocate science as the solution for all human problems, while others turn to liquor, drugs or other pleasures to escape their troubles.   Our century has witnessed the uncontrolled use of sex as a false liberating instrument, and Eastern mystical experiences and modern psychological techniques as routes to peace of mind and heart.   Despite the claims of these various panaceas, however, the true remedy for our ills, as every Christmas reminds us, is Jesus, our Divine Savior Who, alone, can give us both true liberation and lasting peace and joy.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” Christmas gives us the message of lasting peace, which we can possess only by sharing our blessings with others.  This is the message contained in the celestial song of the angels, reported in Lukes Gospel:   “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.”   Christmas reminds us that God shared His love by giving us His Son.  Hence, we must share our health, wealth, talents and blessings with others.   Just as Jesus shared His love with the poor shepherds and the humble Magi, we, too, are called to share our love with the less fortunate people around us. Sharing with love is the sign that one has the good willof which the angel spoke. The peace of Christmas is promised only to such large-hearted people, for only they are able to receive it.

 

Life messages: 1) We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-givers:  Since it is Jesus Who gives real meaning to our celebrations, Jesus must be reborn in us each time we celebrate Christmas.   Hence, let us leave a room in the innof our hearts for Jesus to be reborn in our lives. Let us remember the famous lines of Alexander Pope: What do I profit if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world during this Christmas, if He is not born in my heart?”  So let us pray for the grace of Jesusbirth in each one of us today, bringing us love, mercy, kindness and compassion to give away.  Let us help all those around us to experience the newly-born Savior Jesus within us – as sharing love in the form of compassionate words, unconditional forgiveness, selfless service, merciful deeds and overflowing generosity.  

2) We need to listen to God speaking to us every day and respond promptly, as the shepherds did: There isn’t one of us in this Church this morning who hasn’t had God speak to him or her in some personal way. It may not have happened as dramatically as it did with these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to our soul and spirit. Too often, however, we have chosen not to listen. Have we ever had an argument with a member of our family, and heard that voice deep down within us telling us to stop, and we knew we should stop? Have we ever had that same inner sense of knowing we needed to do something or to avoid doing something? That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Spirit sent to us by the Father at the request of Jesus our Savior. Whether or not we chose to listen in those cases really isn’t the point. The point is that God has indeed spoken to us, and He continues to speak to us right now. How are we going to respond? Will we respond as Mary did, as the shepherds did and as the magi did? Or not?

JOKE OF THE DAY: 1) A four-year-old girl went with a group of family and friends to see the Christmas lights, displayed at various locations throughout the city. At one church, they stopped and got out to look more closely at a beautiful nativity scene. Isnt that beautiful?said the little girls grandmother. Look at all the animals, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.
Yes, Grandma,replied the granddaughter. It is really nice. But there is only one thing that bothers me. Isnt Baby Jesus ever going to grow up? Hes the same size he was last year!

2) Some children were asked what love is. The responses were quite interesting and instructive for us adults. One said, “Love is when my mommy makes a cup of coffee for my daddy and takes a little taste before she gives it to him to make sure it tastes okay.” Another said, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you’ve left him alone all day.” Another response was, “You really shouldn’t say, ’I love you’ unless you really mean it, but if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” One boy said, “When someone loves you, the way they call your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” And finally seven-year-old Bobby said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”   

3) Typical of last minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In a panic, she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mothers near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee, “Look Mommy! Its Jesus – Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, “We dont have time for that!” L/16

(Scriptural HomiliesCycle A- No. 6 d by Fr. Tony

Synopsis: Christmas Day (Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18/1:1-5,9-14)

Introduction: While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham, and Luke’s genealogy to Adam, John’s genealogy goes back to  God Himself. John travels to eternity to reveal to us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful Name is the Word. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God.

Scripture lessons: The first reading gives us the assurance that, just as Yahweh restored His chosen people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus, the Savior, will restore mankind to the Kingdom of God.  In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God Who had conveyed  His words to us in the past through His prophets sent His own Son, so that He might  demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection, the real nature of our God.  John’s Gospel gives us a profoundly theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, he leaves no doubt as to the reality of Jesus’ human nature.  In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He explains later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas:  Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16).

Life Messages: 1) A day to remember and a day to wait for:  Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward, because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming.  The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him.  In addition to these two “comings,” the Church teaches us that Christ comes to us every day through the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Bible and the worshipping community. We are asked to inaugurate Christ’s Kingdom in our lives by allowing Him to be born in us, by recognizing Him in others and by courageously going forth to build His Kingdom of love, justice, peace and holiness in our world.

 2) We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us.  There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness.  There’s no room for our human power and prestige.  There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin.  There’s no room for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride.  There’s no room for bitterness and greed.  There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable human beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so lavishly gives us through the Sacraments, through the Holy Bible and during our prayers.