Solemnity of the Nativity of The Lord (Christmas)
Saturday, December 25, 2021
Christmas Homily Notes 2021
· During any Mass, an important prayer that is always prayed is called the Preface. This poetic prayer takes place after the priest has offered the gifts on the altar and concludes when we all pray together the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts chant.
· The Preface is a short and concise summary of the central mysteries or themes that are being proclaimed at that Mass.
· One of the Prefaces for Christmas, which you will hear soon, states that “For in the mystery of the Word made flesh a new light of your glory has shown upon the eyes of our mind, so that, as we recognize in him God made visible, we may be caught up through him in love of things invisible.”
· Things recognized as visible, to be caught up in love of things invisible. That is a beautiful summary of what Christmas is all about.
· That Jesus was born in Bethlehem was the ultimate and perfect way for God to make himself visible to us! God has existed invisibly forever, but in the birth of his Son, God became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is God that is thoroughly visible, who could be seen, touched, heard, sensed, even smelt!
· Christmas is filled with radiant signs of the visible. We hear them tonight in the cherished story of the Holy Family, visible and real people who teach us what it means to trust in God, to allow joy to enter your life as Mary and Joseph held the infant close to their hearts, and of the hope of real visible people like shepherds and eventually kings who came to hold the Son of God in their arms and dared to believe salvation had entered into the world.
· These stories of visible things in the past help us to fill our homes with many visible signs and symbols that mark our Christmas celebrations. This is why it is important and beneficial to our lives and faith to have things like Nativity Scenes and Christmas trees in our homes to help us remember what happened so long ago. It is why we take joy in giving gifts to others as small visible signs of our care for them, why we gather with friends and family to feast and rejoice that Jesus Christ is born and why to vocalize those words “Merry Christmas” is to bring peace to those who rejoice in Jesus’ birth and to those who do not believe in Jesus to once again ponder that all important question if they too might make room for him in their hearts.
· But for as important as all these visible signs of Christmas are, they are meant to help us also be caught up in love of invisible realities that we cannot sense but know deeply to be good, true and beautiful.
· Among the most important signs of the invisible realities of Christmas is the mention of the angels who descended upon the manager in Bethlehem. We have long held the tradition that when St. Luke wrote his gospel, many of the stories he shared about Mary were ones that she herself had told St. Luke, so we might rightly say that inclusions of the angels in the Christmas story was Mary’s lived experience of knowing these invisible messengers of God sang on the night her Son was born and enraptured all who heard their celestial hymns.
· Many artists have tried to capture this moment the angels appeared. Among the finest was that of Sandro Botticelli’s Nativity, where he depicted the angels dancing upon the roof of the manager but also painted the heavens to be a large open portal between this world and the next. It gives the impression that the heavens are literally falling upon our world, that the veil between us and heaven were torn asunder that night, that earth was bathed with the invisible glory of heaven in a way that had not been experienced since Eden.
· Here we are called to be caught up in the invisible realities of Christmas: To ponder that God came to be among us, of how the angels that evening and perpetually now dwell among us to bring us closer to God, and how the birth of one boy changed the course of history to give humanity the hope of hopes: that heaven and eternal life are for real, and you and I can be given this gift of dwelling with the infant of Bethlehem forever if we daily strive to pick up our cross and follow him.
· In the midst of all the joys and difficulties we will face this Christmas seasons, as we typically have combination of both, may I invite you to ponder the visible and invisible signs of Christmas around you. For example, take time to look upon a Nativity scene, maybe the one in this church and relive the joy of this holy night in what you see, remembering too that angels are present and are lifting your mind and soul to ponder things invisible and eternal things.
· A blessed and holy Christmas to one and all. Thank you, friends, for your faith and love for God, may the Christ Child bless you, our Holy Mother care for you, St. Joseph protect you and the angels of heaven guide you always.