Is 9:1-6; Ps 96:1-3,11-13; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14
Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord. This is such good news, yet because we have heard it said and sung over and over again it’s hardly news much less good news. Notice, though, it’s expressed in the present tense, “Today is born.” Today, in our time at this very moment in history his birth is today because God’s love is ever present. God’s love is everlasting. Our God comes; he keeps silent no longer. Notice, also, it’s a Savior who is born; it’s someone who has a mission and his Name is Jesus, which means God Saves! This is good news only for those who accept the truth that we are in need of salvation; indeed, we cannot save ourselves. Not everyone on the face of the earth has accepted this truth; some there are who can think they can save themselves. Finally, note that this Nativity belongs to “Christ the Lord” to the Anointed One who is also the LORD. Someone who had no birth, someone who lives forever, has been born among us and He is the messiah of all and the Lord of all. Today we exult before the LORD for he comes to rule all on earth. Today He comes with justice to rule the world and all the peoples with his constancy.
Today, the prophet Isaiah follows us into the Christmas celebration. We have heard from him throughout the weeks of Advent, now we also hear his good news as we celebrate the coming of the One announced by Isaiah and all the prophets. Today, we are the people who literally walked in darkness to see the great light of this Eucharist. We came in from the cold and dark, from the land of gloom we have walked into the great light of this Liturgy. Into the light we have walked, a light greater than anyone’s expectation or imagination. The Birth of Christ brings such abundant joy and great rejoicing that people who have little or no cheer greet total strangers and sing songs known by heart with folks never before met. The yoke of our slavery and the rod of our slave driver has been smashed as in battles long past. Boots and cloaks good for nothing else will be burned as fuel to light up the camps at night. A child is born of the Virgin Undefiled and an Eternal Son is given in time. His name awesome: Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, the Prince of Peace, and his dominion is forever peaceful. From the Throne of his father David, this Jesus the King of Kings rules with justice and confirms and sustains his kingdom forever just and merciful. Indeed, as the prophet proclaims, “The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this!” This is the great gift of this Holy Night. The LORD is doing a mighty thing. He the great king over all the earth is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He comes to save us in our great need, at this time in history, in this holy gathering. He comes out of love and he is Emmanuel, God with us, out of love.
In the Latin Liturgy during the season of Advent we silence the Angelic Hymn. We do not sing the song of Christmas Night. We do not sing the song the angels sang to the shepherds at the Nativity of the Lord Jesus. The Advent Liturgy has us fast from the Gloria so that we might more fully appreciate it on this most Holy Night. After not singing Glory to God in the highest for four Sundays, it is bound to stand out in our hearts as we stand up to join our voices with the angelic multitude. This heavenly manifestation is in sharp contrast with the quiet and hidden birth taking place among the animals. The most important birth in history takes place outside the normal place of hospitality. This couple, Mary and Joseph, join a great crowd of the descendants of David in his city, Bethlehem, and there is no place for them at the inn. Out of the silence of heavenly awe and wonder the Eternal Word leapt forth to make his dwelling among us. Emmanuel is the fulfillment of the deepest desire of the nations and of every human heart. The power of those who conquer have gathered all these travelers in Bethlehem, and the powers of the world are about to be conquered in the birth of the True Shepherd of Israel and the King of Angels. Among the livestock of the local inn is born the One for whom the world waits. His birth we have been preparing all during Advent to celebrate only because his birth changes us, gives us a new birth. We are reborn in the grace and glory of the Messiah King. Our rebirth, our new dignity, our divine worth, summons forth a new Christmas Song of rejoicing. We join the multitude of the heavenly hosts to sing our hearts out that Christ is born. He is born among the animals and laid in their manger, the place where the dumb ox and stubborn donkey find nourishment. If only we knew where to find the food for our journey home to heaven. The shepherds are startled out of their tired watch to behold the glory of God bursting forth into the most humble of places, where the livestock find shelter and food. The shepherds are the first ones to behold the glory of God all around; we are the descendants of those humble men. These shepherds are protecting the flocks from dangerous animals and thieves. These marginalized and isolated guardians behold the birth of the True Shepherd of every nation. He comes and threatens those who are caught up in their own power and gives the power of his love to those who have no power. Those who must travel to be counted and those who are of no account but count the number of sheep for their masters, such is the crowd who gathers in the city and in the surrounding hills. There is so much irony and contrast in tonight’s gospel that only by many quiet hours of contemplation will we begin to radiate the Light from Light who is born in the darkness of the midnight hour. Let our hearts be overwhelmed with the Glory all around us and deep within us as we share in the Natal Feast of our Messiah King.