Homily: Christmas Vigil

Christmas 2015
Isa 62:1-5; Ps 89:4-29; Acts 13:16-25; Matt 1:1-25

Today’s three readings combined, sum up beautifully the context in which the Child Jesus will be born in the strange surroundings of a stable in Bethlehem. All is now about to fulfilled for each one of us, as we prepare this evening to celebrate the birth of God’s Son among us, as one of us.

This beautiful passage from Isaiah is a message of consolation, which can easily be applied to the Church and to all of us in the community of Christ, who look forward to the birth and the coming of our Saviour. It is interesting to note that integrity is seen as a precious gift needed by the Church as a whole, and by each one of us. Integrity means that we are everything we proclaim to be; that there is no hidden agenda, only total transparency: “What you see is all there is.”

The Second Reading from the Acts of the Apostles represents a speech, which St Paul gave on his first missionary journey to fellow Jews in the synagogue at Antioch. In it he gives a brief history of the Jewish people leading up to St John the Baptist and the appearance of Jesus, the Saviour of his people. Here too there is the emphasis on the continuity between the Jewish people and the emergence of Jesus as a Saviour arising from among them – their Saviour and ours.

Many find the genealogy a rather boring and incomprehensible list of unpronounceable names. However, by giving us this list of names St Matthew is emphasising, that Jesus’ lineage goes back to the very beginnings of Israelite history beginning with Abraham. Jesus is the natural continuation of God’s long connection and involvement in the history of his people. He is in fact the long awaited climax to that history.  He is the Messiah King.

This is further emphasised by his telling in the second part of the Gospel how Jesus came to be. Clearly, the agent of bringing the new life into existence is not St Joseph, but God himself. It is God who is the Father of the Child and Mary is his mother. This is the Incarnation, when the Word of God is made flesh and begins to live among us.

Again and again it astonishes us that God makes himself a child so that we may love him, so that we may dare to love him, and as a child trustingly lets himself be taken into our arms. It is as if God were saying: I know that my glory frightens you, and that you are trying to assert yourself in the face of my grandeur. So now I am coming to you as a child, so that you can accept me and love me.

At this hour, let us ask him to touch our hearts with the holy curiosity and the holy joy of the shepherds, and thus, let us go over joyfully to Bethlehem, to the Lord who today once more comes to meet us.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas, filled with peace and joy.