Theme: Today a Saviour has been born to you
Christmas is finally here. All the four weeks of Advent we have been waiting and praying for His coming and now Christmas is here. Today the angels bring the good news of great joy, for to us is born this day in the city of David a Savior who is Christ the Lord. But how do I personally enter into this ‘great joy’ as Christmas rings out joy to the world and make it my own? This is the question at hand. Even though God has declared joy to the whole world, there are still many among us who do not know how to claim and make it their own.
First reading: Isaiah 9:1-7
Seven hundred years before the era of Christ, the Northern Kingdom of Israel met with battle, defeat and slavery. Prophet Isaiah announced the good news that God would reverse the mess where survivors would rejoice as those sharing a harvest of spoils. Isaiah focused new hope on a future king who would combine all virtues of Israel rulers. These virtues were later personified in Jesus Christ whose birth we are commemorating today. In our lives there are moments similar to those envisaged by Prophet Isaiah where we behave like a nation walking in darkness. Joy will only materialize when we welcome the light which is obedience to God.
What light? Light is faith in Jesus Christ who alone possesses exceptional qualities. Jesus who is wisdom incarnate is infinitely Wise than King Solomon; He is a Wonder Councellor and a Prince of Peace. He alone establishes Justice and Integrity. He is valiant like David. He is a brave warrior against evil and sin and a loving God to His people. He alone is able to break the yoke that burdens us. He is neither violent nor cruel. Before him all the war gear is destroyed. Christ is the beginning of the new era of peace, of justice, of brotherhood. If we honestly collaborate with His message, then peace will prevail.
Second reading: Titus 2:11-14
This second reading gives us a convenient summery of Christian faith. God’s grace personified in Christ has come into the world; it is not a matter of future expectation as for Isaiah’s generation. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, a new people has been created, freed from sin and wickedness of the past. All that is remaining is the coming of Christ as God and Saviour who in fact has already come. Christ as God and Saviour possesses both virtues of ruler and God. As saviour he meets all the expectations of Gentiles who looked for salvation from all situations. This reading is a strong reminder that not all has been accomplished; and much more remains to be done. Salvation for all human persons has not yet been manifested. We still need to make our lives an act of faith, love and hope.
Gospel: Luke 2:1-14
Luke writes of the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the visit of the shepherds, and the song of the angels. He links all these with world events by introducing Caesar Augustus the emperor who prided himself on bringing peace to the world. The story of Jesus begins with a journey to Judea because of a census. The Romans who would later be responsible for his crucifixion, caused him to be born in David’s city of Bethlehem because of the forced census. Jesus turns inconveniences into blessings. Remember David had been punished for holding a census cf. 2 Samuel 24 but now it is because of the census that Jesus is born in the City of David. The child Jesus was born in a manger, the place where the animals fed, a reminder to us from prophet Isaiah that the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib, while Israel did not know the Lord cf. Isaiah 1:3. At the beginning of Covid 19 Pandemic when Cities went under total lockdown, stray animals sensed trouble and escaped while defiant citizens ended up in Police Cells. Is it different in our time? According to Luke no authorities of Israel but shepherds visited the crib. We have to learn from nature.
Some elite were convinced that shepherds were among those members of an unclean profession whose dishonesty was obvious. Three characters would never give witness in court of law: the shepherd, tax collector and a prostitute. All the same, they became the fore runners of so many marginalized individuals who flocked to Jesus during his ministry. The best known is Levi the tax collector and Zacchaeus that desired and found his company.
With their music, the angels transferred their music from heaven to earth cf. Revelation 4:9. Their words were repeated by the disciples when they entered Jerusalem, thanking God for all the wonders they had witnessed during their time with Jesus. The angels’ message to the shepherds was the message of the first preachers of the gospel: Jesus the saviour, Christ the Lord born today. The shepherds did not close their hearts but like Zacchaeus the ‘smart cheat through tax collection’ accepted the day of Salvation.
Fellow citizens; even if the news of great joy which God showers on the world at Christmas is here; we still need to do something. We need to make a little more effort. How do we do that? Well, that is rather easy to explain but pretty hard to practice. Look at the word JOY. You see that it is made up of three letters: first J, then O, and lastly Y. J stands for Jesus, O for Others, and Y for You. Joy therefore is: Jesus, Others before You. To experience joy we need to place Jesus first in everything. Secondly, we need to care for others before considering ourselves. That is the recipe for joy. That is how we can convert the Christmas ‘joy to the world’ into a personal one. As we listen to the Christmas story we would do well to pay attention to the various groups of people that are mentioned and see whether they try to please Jesus and others before themselves, or whether they seek their own interests first. You will discover that those who practice J-O-Y are the ones who enjoy peace and that those who practice self first are always the unhappy and miserable. Here are a few examples to demonstrate this:
On the negative side we have the innkeeper who turned Joseph and Mary out in the cold night while he enjoyed comfortably the warmth alone. There is also Herod who wanted his job security as king to the point that he was prepared to kill Jesus and holy innocents. These people never got to experience joy. On the good side are the shepherds who left everything they owned in the bush unattended to go and adore Jesus. The magi, wise men from the East left the security of their homeland making a long and dangerous journey to Bethlehem simply to worship the new-born King and to share their wealth. These are the ones who receive God’s favour and true peace of Christmas. Let us today resolve to follow their good example by placing Jesus and others before self and then the joy of Christmas will be ours.
I conclude this sharing by provoking some questions. Do we really believe in the power of God to transform you from your dramatic distress? With all the indifference surrounding us do we feel committed to work for peace? The answer is deep in our hearts. As Jesus is born during the dark hours of Christmas night, let us allow His light to guide us.
We need Jesus the Counselor to challenge our status quo so that it can improve. We need to grow in honesty so that Jesus can save us from our indifference and useless comfort. Jesus is here to deal with our addictions, imaginary fears and hopeless dreams. Jesus is inviting us not to fear the unknown, instead to be a people on the move. Like daring magi, we need to take leap into an adventure of life discovery, there we will find God waiting for us ready to transform us for our good. Genuine and lasting change is not for those who fear the unknown but for those willing to risk the known for a greater good. Let us make fall the giant of evil that is trapping us to live without faith so that Jesus can save us today, tomorrow and forever.
Fr Paulino Mondo