25 December – Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord (Mass in the Day)
The Word Made Flesh
For us the Word of God is no longer the message spoken by prophets, but the messenger of God in person, the Eternal Word begotten of the Father before time began.
How beautiful on the mountains,
are the feet of one who brings good news,
who heralds peace, brings happiness,
and tells Zion,
‘Your God is king!’
Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices,
they shout for joy together,
for they see the Lord face to face,
as he returns to Zion.
Break into shouts of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord is consoling his people,
The Lord bares his holy arm
in the sight of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is. He is the radiant light of God’s glory and the perfect copy of his nature, sustaining the universe by his powerful command; and now that he has destroyed the defilement of sin, he has gone to take his place in heaven at the right hand of divine Majesty. So he is now as far above the angels as the title which he has inherited is higher than their own name.
God has never said to any angel: You are my Son, today I have become your father; or: I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Again, when he brings the First-born into the world, he says: Let all the angels of God worship him.
In the beginning was the Word:
and the Word was with God
and the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things came to be,
not one thing had its being but through him.
All that came to be had life in him
and that life was the light of men,
a light that shines in the dark,
a light that darkness could not overpower.
A man came, sent by God.
His name was John.
He came as a witness,
as a witness to speak for the light,
so that everyone might believe through him.
He was not the light,
only a witness to speak for the light.
The Word was the true light
that enlightens all men;
and he was coming into the world.
He was in the world
that had its being through him,
and the world did not know him.
He came to his own domain
and his own people did not accept him.
But to all who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to all who believe in the name of him
who was born not out of human stock
or urge of the flesh
or will of man
but of God himself.
The Word was made flesh,
he lived among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John appears as his witness. He proclaims:
‘This is the one of whom I said:
He who comes after me ranks before me
because he existed before me.’
Indeed, from his fullness we have, all of us, received –
yes, grace in return for grace,
since, though the Law was given through Moses,
grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God;
it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart,
who has made him known.
And all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God
I have just returned from a 12-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was blessed to have walked in the land where Jesus lived, preached, died and then rose and ascended into heaven. Celebrating daily mass at the many holy sites was truly all I wanted and, particularly so at the Holy Sepulchre (on Golgotha) and in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, I felt His presence strongly.
We also had an hour of adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament one evening in the chapel within the convent where we were staying in Jerusalem and as I struggled to understand His supreme sacrifice (we had visited the home of Caiaphas and prayed Psalm 88 in the very dungeon Jesus spent the night before his crucifixion), I asked in my heart how is it that God would have put his only son through all that pain, torture and misery. I could only trust in faith that God’s divine plan would reveal His love and mercy to me along the way.
And so he did. In the various encounters I had with the shopowners in the Old City on our free half day, in the daily interactions with the pilgrims (some of whom I had met the previous year on a similar trip through France to Portugal), and in my dreams as I slumbered for at least 10 hours each night.
Because despite the conflict that I felt within the land, there was an unmistakeable aura – one that spoke of perserverance, of never giving up. One that radiate an ethereal peace, love and joy. Jesus was ever-present as we traced His footsteps, guided by our knowledgeable and grandfatherly guide, led by our slightly regimental but ever-loving tour leader. They brought to life each and every site as we took pictures, prayed and reflected. From the Church of the Visitation to the very spot where He gave up His sacred life, I could feel the sense of foreboding and inevitability of the fate our Saviour was meant to live out.
Yet amidst all this ‘heaviness’, I could also reflect back on the hope of His birth. We just had a small party at home and the choir came and sang familiar favourites. Those lyrics mean so much more to me now and as I look back on our pilgrimage, I praise God for calling me to His land – where conflict and tolerance are part and parcel of everyday life. Where walls are erected to demarcate governance and control. However, I know in my heart that these are mere symbols erected by man. We, brothers and sisters, are called to destroy all walls that we erect within our hearts; to embrace the poor, the afflicted, the downtrodden. Because the greatest gift we have been given was not under a tree. It was born in a manger, under a shining star so that we would embrace it and be shining stars wherever we walk.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)
Prayer: Father, we thank you for the gift of Jesus, our Emmanuel, your Holy Son.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus, for being our shining star in our lives.