The Nativity of the Lord - Christmas
Mass at Midnight
1st Reading: Isaiah 9:1-6
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 96: 1-2a, 2b-3, 11-12, 13
2nd Reading: Titus 2: 11-14
Gospel: Luke 2:1-14
One of the best things about scripture study is that you will always learn something new. It’s been several years since I was writing commentaries on a regular basis, but for the sake of this project, I’ve been called to study again. The RCIA usually took a two-week break during Christmas. Therefore, we did not need to write commentaries for the gospels that were read at the masses during that time. But we decided that The Commentary Project needed to be complete so here I am, studying and learning things I never knew.
There are four separate readings for the Christmas Masses that are used for all three liturgical cycles.
Vigil Mass Matthew 1:1-25
Mass at Midnight Luke 2: 1-14
Mass at Dawn Luke 2:15-20
Mass During the Day John 1:1-18
Like many families, we have a tradition of attending the Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve. At least that’s what we started to do after we had children. Prior to kids, Leroy and I would occasionally attend Midnight Mass after dinner with his family. Joan mentioned that she grew up attending Mass at dawn. Every year we’ve heard the same readings (and I had no idea they were different at each Mass.) When trying to decide which gospel to focus on for this project, I picked the readings from the Mass at Midnight. These readings are the most commonly known, but I think they are my favorite (and probably well known) because they are featured in A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) when the character Linus says, “Sure Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” (Click here to see Linus’ speech.) Note: Linus drops his security blanket when he proclaims the words “Fear not!”
Now it seemed silly to choose readings based on a cartoon, however I am nostalgic (especially at Christmas time). But when I looked at the big picture and considered all of the readings, I quickly realized they tell one big story and therefore it seems only right to discuss them all.
We don’t often hear genealogy read during the Mass, however this series of readings begins with Matthew (Vigil Mass – Matthew 1:1-25) tracing Jesus’ origins back to the House of David. He does this to emphasize that Jesus is the rightful heir and has the proper “pedigree” to claim the title. Matthew’s list also points out that God uses the noble and the “unsavory” in His plan of salvation. While many of Jesus’ relatives were noble, there were some considered impure as well, including some real scoundrels. There were women who give birth under questionable circumstances and even tax collectors. Maybe more striking are the names we know nothing about. These were ordinary people, known only to God, but included in His grand design. If Jesus could come from this cast of characters, imagine what God can do through us!
At the Midnight Mass, we skip to over to Luke (Luke 2: 1-14) and the story of the outcasts continues but we’re also learning about insignificant towns like Bethlehem and Nazareth. Jesus was born to poor parents, but they followed the law (both of their faith and their government). Joseph took his wife and traveled home to be counted for the census. It’s on this journey that Mary gives birth to Jesus. Once again, God chooses the outcasts to share His good news; the shepherds. These guys were despised at the time and considered no better than the prostitutes and tax collectors Matthew mentioned in his gospel. They had a reputation for dishonesty and yet it is exactly this group of individuals God chooses to proclaim the birth of a Savior. Further evidence that Jesus came for everyone; not just the worthy or the righteous.
The story continues at the Mass at Dawn (Luke 2: 15-20) where these same shepherds talk about what’s happened and decide to go see for themselves. The same shepherds (outcasts, low-lifes) spread the news and many were amazed. The people actually believed this group who were known to be dishonest. And what did the shepherds do when they went home? They did what we are all called to do when we have experienced Jesus ourselves. They glorified and praised God for all they had heard and seen.
For the Mass During the Day (John 1:1-18) we learn of the story from the perspective of God. From the very beginning, God has been communicating and revealing Himself to His people. John was writing at a time when Jesus’ divinity was being questioned. John points out that Jesus was there at the beginning, at the creation. Jesus invites and calls, but He also reveals God to the world.
This collection of readings is indeed “Good News!”
1. How and where can you announce peace and good news?
2. Do people see the joy and salvation of Jesus in you?
3. Who are the outcasts in your life?
4. When you hear “Fear Not” where are you being called to have courage?
5. How can you imitate Mary and keep all these things and reflect on them in your heart?
There is no handout for this week as the Catechumenate Session would have been on break for the Christmas holiday.