This Christmas eve the source of hope we have all been living on has arrived with our commemoration of the birth of our Lord Jesus in the humble manger in Bethlehem. The creator of time is born in time; the one who fashioned the universe becomes part of it. As we conclude a year unlike any other in living memory we give thanks for the blessings that can be found amid our recent struggles, and we look ahead with great hope to a new year to come.
Turning to the scriptures for Christmas midnight mass we discover that in the long history of God’s journey with his people we are far from alone in having come through a time of adversity, and that we have good reason to hope in the future. The first indication of confidence comes from the prophet Isaiah, whose words are often read during the Advent season. Today we hear: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone…For a child is born to us, a son is given us…They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace” (Isa 9:1, 5).
Isaiah spoke these words at a time of deep trouble in the history of Israel, when the people were under almost constant threat from a series of wars and the hardships that always accompany war. Eventually the northern part of the Kingdom of Israel collapsed, but even then Isaiah had faith in the Lord and urged others to do the same. Over many years his fidelity would be rewarded and proven true with the return of Israel from exile, but an even greater fulfillment awaited—the birth of Christ.
We find that fulfillment recognized and proclaimed in the second reading, from the seldom heard Letter of Titus: “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age.” Titus was an early leader in the Church on the island of Crete, and his joy over the coming of Christ is clear, as is the hope it brings, from his words: “as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:11-13). As Titus lived in Christ-centered hope amid adversity and persecution in his era, so too we can find the strength to do the same through our faith in Jesus.
Finally, in the beautiful Gospel reading from Saint Luke we are reminded of the source of our hope as we hear the angel announce: “Today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:11-14).
Truly, “his favor rests” on us. Christmas is the time when we remember that even through the greatest hardships God never abandons his people—not in the time of Isaiah, Titus, and Luke, nor in our own day. As we celebrate the birth of the Christ child this year may we remember the Lord’s fidelity to us and allow the hope that springs from it to carry us through the challenges and joys of the year to come.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.