Isaiah 62:11-12; Psalm 97; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20
Fr Galadima Bitrus, OSA,
THE COMING OF GOD IN PERSON
Finally, Christmas is here! We are celebrating the birth of Jesus, a name which means, salvation. Therefore, salvation is here!
The theme of our reflection today is, “The Coming of God in Person.”
At Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God in his mission to rescue humanity from the captivity of sin and death, did not stop at anything; rather, having sent prophetic figures across ages to preach repentance and conversion, he finally came in person, assuming human nature. In other words, at Christmas, we celebrate the culmination of God’s intervention in solidarity with humanity.
In the 1st Reading (Isaiah 52:7-10), Isaiah captures the joy of Judeans as they were finally returning to the worship of God on the Holy Mount Zion, in the Holy city of Jerusalem. The passage reflects the period after some Judeans had returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian captivity, as they looked forward to the fuller restoration that Deutero-Isaiah had preached about, a restoration understood as the return of God to Zion the holy mountain, and to Jerusalem the holy city.
This returning God is described as bringer of good news (Hebrew, mәbaśśer), the one who proclaims peace (mašmîa‘ šālôm), the bringer of the good news of wellbeing (mәbaśśer tôv) and the one who proclaims salvation (mašmîa‘ yešȗâ) (v.7).
The watchmen and the ruins of Jerusalem are exhorted to welcome the return of God with shouts of joy; for God is coming to comfort his people and redeem Jerusalem (vv.8-9), thus revealing his holy might to the nations and showing his salvation to the ends of the earth (v.10). As the Psalmist also proclaims, “all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Psalm 98:3).
In the 2nd Reading (Hebrews 1:1-6), the author of this anonymous letter emphasizes the fact that in Christ, we have the highest point of God’s revelation, the superior manifestation of God’s being and glory.
Having spoken in the past through prophets, now in Jesus he speaks to us through the son, through whom he created all things, the heir to everything that is God’s, the exact imprint of God’s being (vv. 1-3).
The title of Christ as Son of God encapsulates Jesus’ unique relationship with the Father (cf. Luke 20:13-14), his superiority, not only to prophets who communicated God’s word and will in the past, but even to Angels who are God’s ministers and messengers; for even they worship him (vv. 4-6).
In being the reflection of God’s glory (Greek, doxa, Hebrew Kavod) and the exact imprint of God’s being, Jesus represents God in the most exalted and personal way possible: he represents God’s nature without any distortion or flaw.
The Gospel Reading (John 1:1-18) is the beginning of the Gospel of St. John. It is a hymn to the Logos (the Divine Word). It reflects the wisdom tradition of the Old Testament, especially the praise of the Wisdom of God in Proverbs 8:22-26 and Sirach 24:1-11.
Together with pointing out its eternal origins (“in the beginning was the Word”, cf. Gen 1:1) and its intimacy and identification with God (“and the word was with God and the word was God”), the hymn underlines the functions of the word (the life and the light of all people), themes that will become central in the development of the Gospel of John: Jesus as the life of the world and the light to the world.
The hymn also underlines the fact that the Word took flesh and dwelt among us, which summarizes the sense of the mystery of Christmas: God’s radical solidarity with men, coming to live with us and like us, thus making us not only see his glory but also live in his truth and grace.
As we celebrate Christmas, like the Judeans we are called upon to welcome God into our lives with joy, knowing that he is coming not to rob us of anything but to rescue us, offering us the path of the good tidings of genuine peace, wellbeing, and salvation, as the antidote to the depressing news of chaos, woes and wars that characterize our world. Let us also contemplate and allow ourselves to be guided by his light and be transformed by his truth and grace.
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
The Joy of Christ Birth
The true meaning of Christmas is love. John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of this incredible act of love.
The real Christmas story is the story of God’s becoming a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. Why did God do such a thing? Because He loves us! Why was Christmas necessary? Because we needed a Savior! Why does God love us so much? Because He is love itself (1 John 4:8). Why do we celebrate Christmas each year? Out of gratitude for what God did for us, we remember His birth by giving each other gifts, worshiping Him, and being especially conscious of the poor and less fortunate.
As we ce!ebrate Christmas today, the gospel tells us that shepherds listened to the message of the angels and hurried to the stable to find the child. In our search for the divine life we must listen to the angels for guide. We must heed the words of scripture for light and salvation. Again, the shepherds responded in joy and praise for the mystery of love unwrapped before them, a vulnerable child and two inexperienced parents. Shepherds are people of low social status but they became the very ones whom the Lord holds in special regard. God loves the poor, he loves what he has created and he honours the lowly hearts. With the shepherds we too are called to worship ever anew the Saviour who has been born for us and who still seeks to enter our hearts.
Lastly, the gospel says “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” We too should do the same; we should take some time to reflect on the meaning of Christ birth and let reflect on how we can birth Christ anew in our hearts. Every birth is a precious gift of God; you and I brought a new joy and promise to our parents and to the world on our birth. How have we fullfiled this joy? How have we related this joy to our families and friends? Are parents still happy with their children?