December 24, 2008, Year B
The Nativity of the Lord
Christmas, at the Vigil Mass
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: Emmanuel (which means, God is with us)
Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.
Tonight we meditate upon the mystery of our salvation, even Jesus, who will save his people from their sins.
Many 'miraculous' births are cited in scripture. Sarah bore Isaac in her old age. The Lord answered the pleas of Hannah, opening her womb, allowing her to bear a son, Samuel. These events remind us that God intervenes in the lives of his people, giving new life. Someone has said, "Babies are God's idea that the world should continue." Many are too afraid of the future.
As we come to the holy creche, another womb has birthed new life; the hope of new life for us. Mary, betrothed to Joseph, was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit. Other 'miraculous' births still required the marital act, but this pregnancy is not by the will of the flesh or man, but by the will of God. Yes, an intervention in the life of man for the life of man by the God of all life and living himself.
It is the most unfathomable of all mysteries. Mary gave to him who lay beneath her heart, the blood that would flow one day for the life of the world. In our contemplation, let us contemplate this, that the Son of God, became the Son of Mary so that the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve could become the children of God. Mary, the first to participate in the divine nature, conveys the promise that we too may receive of his fulness, grace upon grace.
Moved with godly fear, Joseph aware of the divine miracle, sought to shelter Mary and the life she bore from any public humiliation. Perhaps feeling himself unworthy, he is visited in a dream by an angel. Like Mary who was comforted by Gabriel, an angel says, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." So Joseph took Mary his wife into his home and his care.
Although normally, under the Mosaic law, marital relations could take place immediately, Joseph knew her not. He knew her not 'until' she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus. Unlike the modern sense of 'until,' this Semitic idiom means something did not happen during a certain time; it does not mean it happened later. And it is this that sets Mary, Joseph, and the birth of Emmanuel apart and yet so near to us as examples of faith, hope and love. The greatest of these of course is love; for through Mary and the nurture of Joseph, God first loved us!
Joseph is the 'legal' father of Jesus, giving him the ancient royal credentials of King David. The promised posterity of David's throne is fulfilled in him asleep on the hay. The Magi will come later and say, "Where is he who is born King of the Jews?" Not of the Jews only, for we know the 'rest of the story.' He who lays on Mary's breasts, is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. She who kisses the infant's cheek, kisses the face of God.
This holy mystery of the Incarnation is the inspiration of countless poems and hymns. Tidings of great joy have erupted where ever the good news of 'God is with us' is announced. Heralds of joyous song resound with the angelic hosts, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the Incarnate Deity,
Pleased as Man with men to dwell;
Jesus, Our Emmanuel!"
Mary and Joseph would know a mutual love for Emmanuel. Unlike any marriage on earth, theirs was truly made in heaven. Every marriage can succeed if every husband and wife will consummate their relationship mutually devoted to Jesus. It is the Sacred Heart of Mary that satisfied Joseph and which invites married and single alike to an undivided heart for Jesus, Emmanuel, which means, God is with us!
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, with Mary and Joseph I open my heart to you. Amen.