25 December 2015: Christmas

Christmas
Mass
Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
Vigil: Is 62: 1-5 Ps 89: 4-5, 16-17, 27, 29 Acts 13: 16-17, 22-25 Mt 1: 1-25
Midnight: Is 9: 1-6 Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13 Ti 2: 11-14 Lk: 2: 1-44
Dawn: Is 62: 11-12 Ps 97: 1, 6, 11-12 Ti 3: 4-7 Lk 2: 15-20
Day: Is 52: 7-10 Ps 98: 1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6 Heb 1: 1-6 Jn 1: 1-18 (or
Jn 1: 1-5, 9-14)

 

Incarnation: God takes human flesh; God-with-us

This week the RCIA candidates and catechumens, along with the rest of the believing community, celebrate the Incarnation mystery and rejoice at the savior’s birth. The Lectionary presents four different sets of readings for Christmas: the Christmas Vigil Mass, Midnight Mass, Christmas Mass at dawn, and Mass during Christmas day. The gospel readings are:

  • Christmas Vigil Mass: Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus as the messiah (Hebrew: “anointed”), the fulfillment of the Hebrew scriptures. Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy through Jewish history: Abraham and the patriarchs; David and the kings; and finally through common people. Jesus, born of Mary and of the Holy Spirit, is uniquely related to God. In taking Mary into his home as his wife, Joseph gives Jesus an earthy connection to David–Joseph is a descendant of David. This gospel gives us Jesus’ identity: son of David, Son of God.
  • Christmas Midnight Mass: Luke’s gospel presents Jesus as the savior of the whole world–Jews and gentiles alike. Jesus’ birth takes place at the nexus of cosmic events: Augustus’ census, angelic proclamations of good news, the visible glory of the Lord, and heavenly choirs promising peace. God uses gentiles like Augustus and Quirinius to bring about the long-awaited salvation.
  • Christmas Mass at Dawn: Luke’s sweeping scope of Jesus’ birth includes not only emperors and angels, but also the poor and powerless. The shepherds who come to Bethlehem are the first recipients of the gospel–the good news (Greek: εὐαγγέλιον) about Jesus. They share their good news with Mary and Joseph, who don’t yet fully understand Jesus’ identity. All are amazed by these wondrous events: the inbreaking of the kingdom of God within the daily life of humans.
  • Christmas Day Mass: John’s gospel presents Jesus as the cosmic Christ. In this passage from John’s prologue, Jesus is a divine being (God’s Word), light, and God’s only son, who comes into the world and becomes flesh. God’s Word dwells among us (in Greek σκηνόω, literally “pitches his tent”) as another human, but the tent image reminds us of God’s presence in the Ark of the Covenant, which was housed in the Hebrews’ Tent of Meeting in Exodus. Like Matthew’s and Luke’s nativity stories, John’s incarnation story announces the fulfillment of the prophecies, the mystery of God-with-us, and the day of salvation.

In the Christmas season, RCIA participants and the believing community reflect and rejoice in God’s fulfilled promises and in the Incarnation mystery: God becomes human to save us. Glory to God! Peace to us!

–Terence Sherlock

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