Homily: Christmas Mass 2015

2015 Mass during the Day
Isa 52:7-10; Ps 98:1-6; Heb 1:1-6; John 1:1-18

Four Masses are celebrated for the feast of Christmas, and each is given its own set of readings to help us contemplate Christ's birth. The Gospel for the vigil Mass on Christmas Eve is taken from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. The Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus using the Gospel of Luke. The Mass at dawn on Christmas morning continues the story of the birth of Jesus as found in Luke's Gospel through the shepherds' visit to the infant Jesus. In each of these Gospel readings, we hear portions of the Infancy Narratives with which we are familiar.

The Gospel for the Christmas Mass today is taken from the beginning of John's Gospel, but this Gospel is not an Infancy Narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Instead, John's Gospel begins at the beginning, as it were, and presents the Creation story as the framework for announcing the Incarnation. John's opening words, “In the beginning . . .,” echo the opening verse of the Book of Genesis. This framework invites us to view Jesus' birth from God's perspective. Each of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus' birth was the result of God's initiative. However, John's Gospel highlights that this was the divine intention from the very beginning, from the moment of Creation.

John the Baptist was sent by God to testify about Jesus, the light. Others in this Gospel will also offer testimony about Jesus. The reader is invited to accept this testimony, which bears witnesses to Jesus, the Son of God. But even more directly, Jesus' action and words will themselves testify to his identity with God as God's Incarnate Word.

Over the centuries the images of Christmas have multiplied. From the bare narrative of the Gospels we have created not only cribs with angels, shepherds, and the mysterious Magi, but also Christmas trees, family festivities and Santa Claus. And Christmas carols and Christmas cards and Christmas shopping and Christmas dinner.

All of these are fine, but their multiplication can create such an upheaval that we forget the single reality that is at the heart of all this activity: the incarnation of the Word, and God's unconditional love which brought it about.

This Mass During the Day of Christmas is intended to help us to stop for a moment to reflect on the spiritual heart of Christmas. "The Word became flesh and he lived among us. Why?  Because God so loved the world that he gave his only Son", f or us and for our salvation.

It is a joy to see you all here today, because we are here to express that Christmas is more than just a family gathering over meals, or being involved in a Christmas frenzy, or taking holidays from work. I believe you are all here today because you understand Christmas as a celebration of faith. Christmas is that indeed; and it should be a faith-inspired, a faith-motivated and faith-filled celebration. Thank you for showing that today.  Happy Christmas to one and all.  May the spirit of Christmas – that is the great love of God for us – be kept alive in our hearts and to be shared by everyone in our gift giving and our Christmas gatherings.  May you all have a holy, happy and meaningful Christmas celebration!