25 Dec – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord: Midnight Mass
A Saviour Is Born For Us
Tonight we celebrate the birth of a Child who was to bring the joy of God’s saving love to the whole world. And we make our own the jubilant cry of the angels “Glory to God in the highest.”
– The Sunday Missal
The people that walked in darkness
has seen a great light;
on those who live in a land of deep shadow
a light has shone.
You have made their gladness greater,
you have made their joy increase;
they rejoice in your presence
as men rejoice at harvest time,
as men are happy when they are dividing the spoils.
For the yoke that was weighing on him,
the barb across his shoulders,
the rod of his oppressor,
these you break as on the day of Midian.
For all the footgear of battle,
every cloak rolled in blood,
and consumed by fire.
For there is a child born for us,
a son given to us
and dominion is laid on his shoulders;
and this is the name they give him:
Wide is his dominion
in a peace that has no end,
for the throne of David
and for his royal power,
which he establishes and makes secure
in justice and integrity.
From this time onwards and for ever,
the jealous love of the Lord of Hosts will do this.
God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world, while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus. He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.
Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census – the first – took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and travelled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David’s House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn.
In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’
Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord
There are certain cartoons that I used to watch around Christmas season – which always made the holidays more festive to me. I’ve been trying to pass on these traditions to my kids and so my wife and I showed them “A Charlie Brown Christmas” recently. Amidst all the holiday cheer and celebration – Charlie Brown confides in his best friend (Linus) that he’s feeling anxious and depressed with the over-commercialization of the holiday. In turn, Charlie Brown tries to seek out the true meaning of Christmas (from consulting with his psychiatrist Lucy to attempting to find distraction by directing the school play). Finding no answer to his dilemma – he eventually throws his hands up in frustration and pleads for help. Then, Linus responds by reciting from today’s Gospel reading of Luke (v.8-14):
“In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields… The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy… Today, a saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly with the angel there was a great throng of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’”
“…That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
I could not help but consider the fear that must have been felt with the anticipated birth of Jesus. But in this context, there are two types of fears to consider – 1) to be scared of or, 2) to stand in awe or in reverence towards someone. The difference between them is based on whether one believes the object of our fear is someone to whom is worthy of respect and trust. As Christians, we need not fear, as it is written “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). Yet, we also need to revere and respect God, for, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10)
King Herod was one who neither revered, nor feared the Lord – but rather, was beholden to his own worldly desires. Although a converted Jew and elected King of the Jews by the Roman Senate, King Herod only adhered to the law when it suited him to do so. In order to preserve his power, he murdered numerous members of his family (including a wife and three sons) whom he suspected of plotting against him. And upon hearing of the news of the birth of the newborn king from the three wise men, Herod ordered the death of all boys under the age of two around the vicinity of Bethlehem. Consumed by paranoia and depression, Herod suffered through the rest of his life and eventually died an excruciating painful death resulting from kidney disease.
While tending to their sheep in the pitch dark of the night, one can imagine the shock racing through the shepherds’ hearts as they were blinded by the sudden bright pure light of the angels. Upon receiving the assurance of the angels’ message of the Savior’s birth, the shepherds responded in trust, hurrying off to Bethlehem to find the infant Jesus. Having seen the the newborn Christ-child, they praised and glorified God for allowing them to witness the birth of their Savior.
Reflecting on the Annunciation of Mary and Joseph, we hear the angel Gabriel reassure Mary that she had no need of fear, for she had found favor with God (Luke 1:26-38). Joseph was also reassured by the angel that what is conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit and he should continue to take her to be his wife. (Matthew 1:18-24) Their reverence for the Lord allowed them to submit to His will and obediently follow His commands.
Each of these people had a choice to make when confronted with the mysterious news of Christ’s Incarnation – either trust in the Lord and allow Him to take over and guide the eventual outcome or succumb to natural fear and allow it to consume their thoughts and actions. Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, who revered and obeyed the Lord, experienced great joy for they were blessed with peace and hope in Christ.
As we celebrate today, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us praise and glorify God for the many gifts and blessings He’s bestowed on us throughout the year. More importantly, let us bow our heads down low and humbly revere the Almighty for the precious gift of salvation that He has bestowed on us through eternity. Let us respond to His great love by seeking out the Charlie Browns in our lives and remind them of the true meaning of Christmas… for they need not fear as the good news of great joy will be for all the people…for a Savior had been born for all, who is Christ and Lord.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Steven Su)
Thanksgiving: Lord – we praise you! For You so loved the world that You gave Your one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Prayer: Heavenly Father – we pray for all the non-believers in our lives. We pray that during this season, that You use us as Your messengers to continue spreading the good news to a world that so sorely needs to know our beloved Prince of Peace.