Homily(alternative) at the Christmas Vigil Masses ABC- Udoekpo, Michael
Readings: Isa 62: 1-5; Ps 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Matt 1:1-25
Rejoice: God is with His People and Community
Tonight we begin a joyful celebration of the Birth of Christ, our Messiah and Savior.
We gather to celebrate the fulfillment of the promise made us by the prophets that a virgin shall conceived and give birth to a son who shall be named Immanuel (Is 7:14) and a Prince of Peace (Isa 9:4-5). We celebrate an entrance of Light into the world of darkness, war, despair, fears and terrorism. It is a celebration of an important event of our salvation and a contemplation of this mystery received by the faithful remnant of Israel, Mary and Joseph his parents and by those humble Shepherds in Bethlehem, Simeon and Anna.
We celebrate the reasons for the past four weeks of spiritual and material preparations. Reasons for all those shopping; Reason why Santa Claus is in town again. Reasons for all these decoration in our church, in the narthex, the ones in our homes, in our offices, in our work places, in the plazas, public squares, in shopping and community centers. All those snow men dancing with our kids in our homes. We celebrate the reasons for those soft and beautiful Christmas carols and music booming in our radio and TV studios. Those unfading Christmas, CAROLS, “O Come YE ALL FAITHFUL... “ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID CITY...” that echoed in our homes, bedrooms, in the living rooms, in the kitchen areas and dining rooms.
We are celebrating the reasons why we will soon gather to exchange those beautiful gifts and meals with our children, grand children, spouses, neighbors, our loved ones, friends and relatives. Meals and Gifts that represent the love, the peace and reconciliation that Christ the bridegroom brings us at Christmas. Let me not forget we are celebrating the reasons for all those stamps and envelops which we have already mailed- the candies and the cakes, the candles and the checks, the ribbons and the trees, the wine and their choice colors, the food and their items.
Personally I have received so many gifts from you and I want to say thank you very much. All, these are because a special friend, Christ is been born for us in Bethlehem. A friend that in turns brings us the gifts of joy and peace with skills of counseling, reconciliation and the gentleness of a healer.
Without naming names, you and I know that there are still many today who do not believe in Christ and in what we are doing tonight. In the time of Prophets Isaiah (Isa 2: 1-5; 11:1-10; 35:1-6; 61:1ff) and Christ, there were many skeptics, and unbelievers. Think of the opposition from the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Some would asked, “Can something good come from Nazareth” (Jn 1:46)? Just as this preaching and our celebration tonight is important it was necessary for the Evangelist to narrate the stories of the earthly, timely and divine origins of Jesus, Son of Abraham, Son of David and Son of God born of the Holy Spirit for the Jews and the Gentiles. The stories we find in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke’s’ Gospels. Tonight’s readings (Isa 62: 1-5; Acts 13:16-17; 22-25) as a whole affirm God’s abiding presence in Christ among us and the heroic faith of his parents.
My believe is that however this divine story is been narrated, be it from Matthew’s Gospel read this evening (Matt 1:1-25) or from Luke in other Masses or as reenacted beautifully the other day by our children at the Christmas Pageant narrative, the bottom line is the truth of the Saving Purpose of God for all humanity, Jews and Gentiles, from the beginning, rooted in the Scripture, in Israel’s covenant history, and the exemplary roles of the parents of Jesus and the Shepherds. Whatever went on in their family lives, the miraculous conception of Jesus, they trusted and saw it as divine plan and the will of God.
From the readings tonight we come to appreciate more who Jesus was, his origin and the role of his virtuous parents. We come to appreciate Jesus’ link, his identity with the history of God’s people, the Jews and the Gentiles. It is mystery of God becoming man (Carum Factum Est Jn 1:14) and dwelling among us in our homes and communities (Matt 1:21).
The spiritual significance of this story cannot be overestimated. Jesus is born poor and visited first by the poor shepherd- teaches us that happiness is not to be found in abundance or abuse of earthly goods. Jesus comes into the world without the drama and display of pomposity, encouraging us to be humble and not to always rely or seek for human applause. The disposition of Mary and the care of Joseph are challenging to us- modern families, parents and teachers.
The Songs of the angel “Glory to God in the highest and Peace to people of good will---assures us the peace, the tender love of God and reconciliation that Christ brings us at Christmas. This song challenges all forms of violence and terrorism, personal and institutional. The birth of Christ is Grace onto us and we are encouraged to share this grace with others. Thus Christmas incarnates in a joyful mood the announcement of reconciliation and salvation, the announcement of peace that comes from God. As Christians who celebrate the birth of Christmas, we are called to take up this mood of reconciliation and joyful peace, realizing that the humble birth of Christ Savior in Bethlehem speaks of the tender love of God for us his people. It calls for a fitting response to such love. This response entails accepting his saving love, returning a thankful love to him who loved us first, and then sharing this divine love with one another.
And may the blessings of the Child Jesus, the Son God and our Savior remain with you all at Christmas and New Year.