The countdown is nearly over, and in a few days it will draw to a close. It will not draw to an end, however, but to a beginning; a new beginning. Together, gathered as the one body of He Who is to be born, we shall sing with the angels “Gloria in excelsis Deo!” “Glory to God in the highest!”
For those of us going to Midnight Mass, the Liturgy of the Word will open with the words of Isaiah saying: “The people that walked in darkness / have seen a great light; / on those who live in a land of deep shadow / a light has shone.” A great light indeed we will see on Christmas Day: The light of Christ that enlightens all men and rules the nations (see Luke 2:32). He is our Wonderful-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, and our Prince-of-Peace.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that
We believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man (423).
The Catechism, in this paragraph like no other, subtly shows just how big a deal it is that God became man. Read that Catechism paragraph carefully — you might miss the point if you don’t. Notice that for almost the whole paragraph, the Catechism highlights exactly when God became flesh in our own space and time, but right at the end it says something seemingly contradictory: “…the eternal son of God made man.” How can someone eternal be born at a particular time? This is the grandeur of the Incarnation of Christ Jesus.
For those of us going to Mass during the day on the 25th, St John will highlight this fact even further in his usual unique way. “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus): / and the Word was with God / and the Word was God. / He was with God in the beginning.” and a few verses later (in John 1:14) says: “The Word was made flesh, he lived among us.” The Word that was in the beginning, (meaning, He Who is eternal) came into our time to make Himself present among us to save us.
St Luke, at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, also gives us actual time-markers to show exactly when the Nativity of the Lord took place: “This census — the first — took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” It might not seem so, but this is important. The eternal God became a small child and came to offer Himself as a ransom for us. As St Paul says in his letter to Titus in our Second Reading: “God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race.”
St Luke also tells us that “there was no room” at the inn for the eternal God to be born. St John also tells us, highlighting much of the same spiritual point, that “He was in the world / that had its being through him, and the world did not know him.” Do we know Him? Do we recognise Him when we see Him? Is there room for Him in the inn of our lives? Let us examine ourselves and approach His Eucharistic table with renewed confidence and love, that we might receive Him and bring Him to those who still walk in the darkness that we left behind.
Jesus has been calling us to His Eucharistic self since the day He was born. He was born in Bethlehem, which means “House of Bread,” and was laid in a feeding-trough (or manger — think of the French word mangez — to eat).
This Christmas, let us draw close to the Christ-Child and ask Him to be born in the filthy stables of our own lives. This is what He came for. He could have chosen to be born in a royal palace and be wrapped in fine linens — never was there a king as worthy of it as He — but instead He came to those in darkness; he came to us! He clothed Himself with our poverty and wrapped Himself in our misery, and in this way, He triumphed. As He Himself has promised, those who draw close and receive Him, shall triumph with Him.
The Cross still faces us, however, just as it faced Him from the moment of His conception, but remember, Easter Morning shall be right on the other side — all because of Christmas Day.