Each Advent season we begin anew our yearly immersion into the mystery of the faith. This is only natural since during Advent we await the birth of the Christ child—the beginning of the life of the one who will bring about our redemption by means of his life, death, and resurrection.
The essence of this expectation is captured prophetically by Isaiah in the first reading at mass on Christmas day: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings … bearing good news” (Isa 52:7). In this brief pronouncement Isaiah twice uses the word which we often translate in English as “evangelize,” meaning to announce good news or to bring a good message. This word was adopted by early Christians to describe the core message of their faith, the “Gospel.”
Turning to the heart of that Gospel message we encounter three themes on this Christmas day which capture the spirit of the good news that Isaiah foretold and the Christ child brought to completion. First, discovering joy in the Advent and Christmas seasons means having faith in the one whose birth we await – we need to believe in the “glad tidings” and “good news” of which Isaiah spoke. If this sounds like a challenge, we might think of how Christmas is a traditional time to renew family acquaintances and patch-up old misunderstandings. Such healing within a family is based on trust, and our faith in God is at its core a form of loving trust in the Lord.
Next, our faith naturally should carry over into action, for as baptized Christians we are all called to the mission of sharing the good news in one form or another. On Christmas Day, though the Christ-child has just arrived, already the call to mission is clear: both Isaiah and the Psalmist proclaim “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God” (Isa 52:10; Ps 98:3), recognizing that the wonderful news of the Christ child’s birth is intended to bring joy to all peoples and all nations.
The third and final theme we encounter today is that Christ, whose coming we have been awaiting in Advent, is the fullness of God’s revelation and salvation—his very name “Jesus” means “he saves.” A powerful passage of today’s second reading witnesses to this, as we hear in the opening verses of the Epistle to the Hebrews: “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son” (Heb 1:1-2). All that we have and all that we believe in as Christians comes through Jesus: there is no one else to await.
These three themes are brought together once more in the Christmas Day Gospel reading, taken from the beautiful Prologue of the Gospel of John. There we hear “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and “to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name” (John 1:1, 12). Here we have the affirmation that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, truly was the perfect revelation of God to his people, and that “those who believe in his name” find their salvation in him. Sent forth like John the Baptist to help people put faith in Christ, (John 1:7), we give thanks to God this day for the gift of the Christ child—the Word made flesh (John 1:14)—in whom the mystery of faith finds its beginning and its glorious end.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.