Homily Christmas Midnight Masses ABC- Udoekpo U. Michael
Readings: Isa 9:1-6; Ps 96: 1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13; Ti 2:11-14 and Luke 2:1-14
Our Savior is Born, Christ the Lord
Earlier this evening at the Vigil Mass we inaugurated an important celebration of Christmas- the Birth of Christ, our King and Savior (Lk 2:11) foretold by the Israel’s Prophets, that a virgin Shall conceived and give birth to a son who shall be named Immanuel la wnm[ = GOD IS WITH US (Isa 7:14). And only upon his shoulder shall dominion and power rests. This Son comes not only as God’s gifts for us, but as a Wonder- Counselor. He comes as a God. He comes as a Hero. He comes as Father incarnate. He comes as a Prince of Peace (Isa 9:4-5) and a dispenser of justice. He comes to destroy the barrier and the power of darkness. He comes with Love.
It is an entrance of Light into the world of darkness, war despair and fears and terrorism. Christmas is a celebration of the victory of Light over darkness. It is celebration of hope and expectation comes to fulfillment. 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 Hanna.
However the story of the birth of Christ is been narrated, be it from Matthew’s Gospel as at the vigil Mass or from Luke, tonight’s text, 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.
With the Gospel of tonight (Lk 2:1-14), all eyes are fixed on the biblical Manger (crib) in Bethlehem the birth place of Christ and his ancestral home. Although Mary was heavy with Christ, she was required by the civil law to travel with her husband Joseph from Galilee to Bethlehem for a census- process for taxation. There was neither Honda CRV nor Toyotas then. No Cadillac, no SUVs, no BMV nor Lincolns, except and perhaps horses and Donkeys, our children would say- Dominick the Donkey!! It must have been a rough journey for them, especially for an expected mother- like Mary – galloping on a donkey.
Tonight’s story is so important that it has become the delights of Broadway shows, of popular preachers, theater groups, and church and Christmas pageant functions. However, on arrival there was no place for them in the Inn. Joseph who is usually very discerning took Mary to the Manger where she delivered her Baby Jesus (God Saves).
I have had the privilege of serving as an administrator at St. Mary’s Hospital Urua Akpan in South Eastern Nigeria and as chaplain in many hospitals in this country. I have come across expected mothers with and family. Especially in rural areas in Africa they don’t usually carry a lot with them to the hospital except few belongings. They usually wear on their faces some sense of anxiety, pains and hope of joy especially when the baby is finally delivered. Mary and Joseph may have made their humble preparation. They had the swaddling cloth with which Baby Jesus was wrapped with to keep the Son of God save from cold and dust. Joseph as righteous and discerning as he usually is must also be assisting in the wrapping and in caring for Jesus and Mary.
It was not long the angel of the Lord brought the good news of the birth of Christ, the Glory of the Lord (Isa 9:1) to the poor humble shepherd who were walking around the vicinity of caves and mountains keeping night watch over their flock. They became the first to adore Christ and bearers of the Good News that “Today in the City of David our Savior Christ has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.” And the angels invites us to sing with them- Glory to God in the highest and on earth Peace to everyone whom the Lord favors.
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---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 meant as the 2nd reading (Ti 2:11-14) would stress to share this grace with others. We are called to respond to God‘s Love by sharing His Divine Love with one another.
In many cultures around the world we have different ways of celebrating and sharing this Love. Here, like in Nigeria we have decorated our homes with flowers, palms fronds and trees. We have cards and gifts exchanged. Usually after the midnight mass/church worship good wishes are exchanged with neighbors, Sancta brings gifts to family members especially our children and grand children and the Christmas meals and stories are shared among family members, songs and carols are chanted- reinforcing the family and faith reunion. No doubt a good part of this has been challenged by multiple distractions of commercialization. But each year when we look at the crib, listen to Christmas songs, reflects on the scriptures, listen to the stories and contemplate the roles of Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherd- God has plan to save us.
And May the joy of the Birth of Christ our Savior remains with us throughout Christmas and the New Year.