As we celebrate the feast of Christmas, I thank, on behalf of our community, all who did so much to make our remembrance of Christ’s birth meaningful, both in terms of liturgy (children’s concert, music, children’s pageant, environment, ministers, etc., etc.), as well as reaching out to others (card Sunday, gift Sunday, food Sunday, family Sunday). May God bless you for your generosity!
After all our waiting and preparation, Christmas has finally arrived. The Church gives us four sets of readings (one each for the Vigil Mass, Midnight Mass, Mass at Dawn, and Mass during the Day). We begin at the Vigil Mass with Salvation history (the genealogy of Christ) and we end at the Mass during the Day with the cosmic Christ, who always was and always will be (In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…what we used to read as the Last Gospel at the end of every Mass).
If you want to know if Jesus was fully human, look at His genealogy. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom Matthew arranges into three equal groups: 14 patriarchs, 14 kings and 14 princes. The groups are based on the three stages of Jewish history: i) the first covenant with Abraham and the rise of Israel to a great kingdom by the time of David, ii) the fall of the nation by the time of Babylonian exile and iii) the resurrection of the nation after the exile. Strangely enough, the list includes a number of disreputable characters, including three women of bad reputation: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba. Worse, the ancestor whom is singled out the most, David, was an adulterer and murderer. Perhaps the Lord God included these sinners in His Son's human genealogy to emphasize God's grace, to give us all hope, and to show us that Jesus is sent to save sinners. Through this genealogy, Matthew's account challenges our human expectations as to how God will fulfill our hopes for endless peace, justice, and righteousness: the human way would have been a powerful king who conquers and controls; God's way is that the powerful work of salvation comes to us under the appearance of weakness. Luke's account of the birth of Christ shows us another example of this challenge to our human way of thinking: the royal child, heir to King David's throne and bearer of wonderful titles, is born in poverty, not in a great palace. He is laid in a manger because there is no room in the inn. Bottom line: God’s ways are not our ways.
This is an important message to us through all these Christmas stories. We can look at our world and think everything is out of control. But Christmas tells us God is in control, His way is not our way, we simply need to do our part by living according to Gospel values, and all will ultimately be OK. There is hope for our world because the events of this night happened!
As we remember Emmanuel, God with us, this Christmas, let us renew our commitment to live according to the values He has shown us. Then WE are bringing Him to our world. May God bless each and every one of us in a special way this Christmas with the graces we need to bring His love to the world.
-- Paul James Portland, SDS