Christmas Mass during the Day
Apostolic Nunciature, Port of Spain
“John appears as his witness. He proclaims: ‘This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me ranks before me because he existed before me.’”
The Christmas story or the mystery of God becoming Man in Jesus is somewhat lost on our world. Although there might be some rabid atheists out there pushing the “Season’s Greetings Agenda” at the cost of ignoring or denying the centrality of the Christ Child for today, my guess would be that a lot of people among the unchurched or the once a year perhaps “darken-the-door” types are just kind of at a loss and go with the flow. The Christ part of Christmas gets covered over and lots of people have turned or keep their backs turned to the bright dawn of the Word made Flesh. They miss the point of Christmas maybe for failure to sort out some crisis or conflict in their lives or maybe because of just plain dullness.
“At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is.”
Those words may not fall on deaf ears but perhaps on dull hearts and distracted minds. Too many folks out there would be hard pressed to say an enthusiastic “yes” to John’s Gospel speaking about Jesus as God’s Word made Flesh, as the true light coming into the world. In other words, not much has changed out there in 2000 years. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is new again in every generation; each and every child encounters the Word, the first-born of the heavenly Father, maybe not with all of the novelty and controversy which accompanied Jesus’ 30 some years on this earth, but the encounter is new for each and every one of us and in every generation; it is as new in you as it is in me.
The prophet Isaiah speaks out boldly in God’s name, as we heard in our first reading today. Isaiah is prophesying over the ruins of Jerusalem destroyed, over a Davidic or Solomonic kingdom very much failed and torn apart. He says with lots of hope and enthusiasm:
“Your God is king! Listen! Your watchmen raise their voices, they shout for joy together, for they see the Lord face to face, as he returns to Zion.”
Many years earlier the Old Testament figure Samuel was very much distressed when the people insisted that they wanted a king, rather than God ruling over them; they wanted to be just like any other nation. Samuel saw very clearly the implications of exalting anyone short of God Himself. Our problem is not necessarily that we want something or someone over us other than God, but that the Word from Bethlehem seems too good to be true, like Zion in ruins invited to break into shouts of joy as God arrives on the scene to console us His people through Baptism.
Christmas more than any time of the year is a time to ask “How can it be that people die without baptism right in our very midst?” Maybe that happens in part at least through our fault; maybe you and I are not quite as enthused and hopeful as we should be in saying that with Jesus’ birth at Bethlehem the fullness of time has come. Things are resolved; they are handled; they are settled. Our God is indeed King; He rules the universe; we live in confidence. We dare not hide our Christmas joy!
‘This is the one of whom I said: He who comes after me ranks before me because he existed before me.’
John the Baptist was thrilled to make this confession. We can say the very same and bask in the glory of the bright dawn Jesus, born at Bethlehem, come to fill our world with peace. The angels told the shepherds this was a joy to be shared by the whole people, by the whole world.