Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Christmas Story

Reflections on the Readings

Christmas Mass at Midnight - December 25, 2011 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For Sunday

The Christmas Story

For to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

"Once upon a time," is often the beginning of a good story. The Christmas story, however, is earth's best loved story. It is a story that has no beginning nor does it have an end; it's origin is eternal and it includes you and me. Children are taught that Santa's as old as his tongue and a bit older than his teeth! But the Christmas story is because God is.

Before there was ever a tick on a clock or a calendar to mark the days of a week or the months of a year, there was Christmas. St. Peter taught the early Church that our redemption was not accomplished by perishable things like silver or gold. The precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without spot or blemish bathed our sin infested soul. In the eternal environs of holy love Jesus was destined before the foundation of the world to be the one born in the city of David, the Savior of the world. (1 Peter 1:19-20)

It is good that every Christmas we reflect more deeply upon the mystery of faith. Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, teaching what had been hidden from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 13:34) He said things like, "The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches." (Matthew 13:31)

There is a connection between the mustard seed and Jesus whose birth we celebrate tonight. The most vulnerable and smallest of all humanity is a baby. And when the time came for Mary to have her child, she gave birth to her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. From the first reading the prophet Isaiah explains the hope and promise wrapped up in swaddling clothes. "His name is Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace," Isaiah shouts. And the government rests upon the shoulders of this little boy child lying in this manger. And of the increase of his reign and of peace there will be no end. Can we together say, "Hallelujah!" O Holy Night, the night our soul truly feels its worth.

Twenty-one centuries ago, in the tiny village of Bethlehem, the mystery hidden for ages in God, lay in a manger. And ever since that first Christmas night, the unsearchable riches of Christ has been the treasure trove of the Church. In the Church we learn of Christ and through the Church we hear the voice of Christ inviting the world into the deepest things of God, the wisdom of God kept secret in a mystery, a mystery that is a fellowship in the friendship of God. It is an abyss of love from which we learn to forgive each other as God in his Son forgives us. It is where our hearts reach for the heart of God. In this holy embrace our fearful and faithless hearts are healed - here where deep calls unto deep - and the great and intended reason for Christmas is revealed to us. (Ephesians 3:9; 1 Corithians 2:7)

A manger as the first bed for Jesus remains one of the most poignant moments in salvation history. Perhaps it happened this way to remind us we will not find God in the predictable but rather in the place of seclusion, the place away from the crowds and the noise and hustle and bustle of life. There does not seem to be much room for him in those places. There's not a doubt in my heart that Mary and Joseph tenderly kissed the face of God that holy night. And from the realms of glory angels made haste to proclaim to shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night the good and glorious news. Perhaps the angel of the Lord said to them, "Go! You will find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Go! Make haste. And kiss the face of God."

Like the shepherds let's also expect to see Jesus. When we come to this altar this holy night, may the Lord help us to see him for the first time again. Here before us the grace of God appears as we heard in the second reading. Jesus comes for our salvation and for the salvation of all humankind. He comes to judge the earth and the world with righteousness and the nations with truth. It is the very love of Christmas itself we receive tonight when we eat this bread which is his body and drink from this Chalice the precious blood of Christ. This is the heart of the Christmas story - a story that grows dearer with every Eucharist and the passing of the years until time shall be no more!

Let us fall on our knees and hear the angel of the Lord say again, "I bring you glad tidings of great joy which is for all the world; for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Merry Christmas!

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at dennishankins@gmail.com His website is: www.dennishankins.com

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