December 25, 2014
Larry Gillick, S.J.

Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality 
click here for photo and information about the writer

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
Mass During the Night
Lectionary: 14

Isaiah 9: 1-6
96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13
Titus 2: 11-14
Luke 2: 1-14

Celebrating Christmas

Daily Christmas Prayer

Midnight Mass Homily of Pope Francis

Christmas Homily of Pope Francis last year

Pope Francis' Christmas Day Message last year

The Catholic Church celebrates three separate Eucharistic Liturgies for this solemnity of the birth of Jesus. There are subsequently three separate sets of scriptural readings. It is unusual for most people to attend more than one Christmas liturgy, but it would be helpful for a fuller experience of this feast of Christmas to engage all nine readings.

At the mass during the night we have a dramatic prophesy about a “child is born for us.” The Gospel is the most familiar about Mary and Joseph traveling to Bethlehem and finding no room in the inn, they settle for a stable of birthing.

The Gospel for the mass at Dawn relates how the shepherds who had heard the message of the angels believe that they had heard something inviting and so they too go to the birthing-stable.

The third Gospel for the Mass during the day is not about stables and angels, nor about stars and kings, but a well-worked summary of how believers much later than the writers of the early accounts,  express “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  The Word which was in the beginning,  now has embraced time and space. God so loved the world that God did not send an idea or a feeling or a document. The mysterious has come to be heard, seen, received and live among and within us all. 

There are many gifts wrapped and ready underneath forests of Christmas trees awaiting ‘revelationation’. This made-up term has a special meaning for gift giving and receiving.  Through the gift, the giver desires to say something  to the receiver about the giver as well as the receiver.  So I want to say something special about you in giving you a something.  I also desire to say something to you about me.  In your reception of the gift,  I desire that you receive, not only the gift, but what  I am saying about you and about me.  If you receive only the gift, you haven’t really received the gift, but rather the thing.  So it is a triple package within one container.

The spaceless and timeless infinite Mystery invites  the world and  each one of us to receive, beginning with the stable-birth, this double-intent,  this declarative statement about the Giver and the receiver, namely the universe and each of us. The Giver, the Sender, the Revealer, the Wrapper, the many-named Lover, is come to us to be received. We are asked to unwrap what the Teller is saying about all human life and our share of that mystery. When I take Jesus tenderly and seriously, then I equally take my self and yourself tenderly and seriously. Gifts usually come with cards and notes making explicit the revelationation. We grow to understand what is exactly being expressed. These notes and cards make things a bit more clear.

The major problem with Christmas and the celebration of God’s love made visible in Christ is that we cannot totally take it all in at once as we can do with a gift of handkerchiefs from a loving aunt or socks from a neighbor. These gifts are clear, definite, easily received and forgotten.  Mary, Joseph the shepherds, the kings, the whole cast of characters could receive only parts to be pondered, treasured in their minds and hearts. We too are frustratingly so limited while we kneel and watch and listen. We do need socks and handkerchiefs as little reminders and glimpses into what the Christmas Giver is trying to offer. The Timeless has permanently taken up space, to give us space and time to receive just what we can, but there is always more to be unwrapped and received. Imagine that!  

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