Reflections on the Readings
The Nativity of the Lord - Christmas - Mass at Midnight
December 25, 2009 - Year C
By Dennis Hankins
Gloria in Excelsis Deo
And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7 RSV)
Tonight, the candles of Advent glow in unison, announcing the fullness of time has come; the Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
Nine months ago, the archangel Gabriel announced to Mary, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus."
The Virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph asked, "How can this be, since I have no husband?"
And the angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy., the Son of God"
Even before Mary and Joseph were husband and wife, Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.
This prompted Joseph to consider sending Mary away quietly.
But as he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Now all of this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel," which means, God with us.
What did Mary know? From the beginning of her pregnancy, Mary knew that the son in her womb, was God's son. From the beginning, she pondered in her heart how she carried in her womb the hope of Israel - the desire of the nations.
The angel Gabriel declared from the very beginning:
-He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High!
-The Lord will give to him the throne of his father David!
-He will reign over the house of Jacob forever!
-And of his kingdom there will be no end!
I think it's safe to say Mary believed that her son was the Messiah. Joseph also shared this understanding of the child lying under Mary's heart. Together, the ever Virgin Mary and her husband, Joseph, and their relatives, lived with the understanding, this child would save his people from their sins.
As Mary pondered in her heart the destiny of her son, Joseph was content to live with Mary as a man appointed by God as guardian and protector, honoring his wife as the handmaiden of the Lord and raising Mary's son as his own.
There was no room in the inn for the Holy Family. Mary went into labor, the fulness of time was upon her. Bethlehem, the House of Bread, was full of hungry and tired travelers, and no room was left to rent on this Holy Night. The Bread of Life wrapped in swaddling clothes was placed in a feeding trough.
Word would soon spread because of the angelic visitation to the shepherds. Shepherds would not think it too strange to find new life in a manger. Perhaps these nomads had laid one of their own newly born sons in such a place. A rock hued out to place feed could very well serve as a new born baby's first crib.
I suspect that not only the shepherds, but their families may have come to that special manger that holy night.
And the Music
The announcement stirred the hearts of those shepherds: A Savior, the hope of Israel, is born in the city of the beloved King David, who is Christ the Lord. That announcement has been and continues to be the inspiration of music that reminds every person on earth he is a living soul. It is music that befits the new born King; music that stirs praise from the lips of all of God's children, young and old alike.
And the heavenly choir is a choir without number. A multitude of the heavenly host we are told take up the refrain, praising God and singing: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Let us join them this Holy Night, and continue for as long as the breath of God is in us, praising and singing with all that is in us Gloria in Excelsis Deo! Amen.