The Nativity of the Lord
1) Is 52:7-10
2) Heb 1:1-6
Gospel: Jn 1:1-18 or Jn 1:1-5, 9-14
“A holy day has dawned upon us. Come, you nations, and adore the Lord. For today a great light has come upon the earth.”
With these joyful words prayed before the reading of the Gospel on Christmas Day, the church invites our contemplation of the great mystery of the Christmas feast. The themes of dawn and radiant divine light shining into the darkness of the world remind us of our deep Advent longings for the peace that comes from God.
The human search for God sees a new dawn. Now God comes in search of humanity by sending his only son Jesus, the word made flesh. No other gift will exceed this greatest of divine gifts — God becomes one of us so we might become more like God, who is love and in whose divine image we were created.
The theme of divine light shining into the world’s darkness is reflected in the season’s festive lights. Over the past year, reminders of many signs of darkness born of human pride, greed and division abound. Unimaginable images of war with innocent lives destroyed and shattered peace among nations come to mind.
Conflicts continue to darken human relationships, while social injustice and inequality tear apart communities and societies. Clearly the world cannot redeem or save itself from the consequences of human sinfulness.
Christians rejoice because God chose to draw close to us with divine love, grace and mercy with the light of true human freedom.
At Christmas, everything we do and say as Christians is experienced as sheer gift in light of the unsurpassed divine gift that St. John proclaims in the Gospel: “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”
Salvation history tells of a God who repeatedly draws near to humanity with divine mercy and forgiveness. As the author of Hebrews writes, “God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son.”
In the Christmas season the church celebrates the mystery of God, who speaks through his son, drawing even closer to us in Jesus born in poverty in the obscure town of Bethlehem.
As the newborn Jesus finds a home in our creches and Christmas cards, the church invites us to open our lives to the light of God. We recognize humbly the darkness of sin in the world and in our own hearts and minds. In beholding the infant Jesus, we see the transforming power of divine light shining into the world’s darkness.
For as St. John notes, “What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
Christmas is God’s victory over sin and darkness in the incarnation of Jesus. This is the single, greatest gift we receive in this season of gift giving. As we join our voices to sing, “O come, let us adore him,” may we give thanks to God for Jesus whose divine light gives us the confidence to pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
What does the church’s celebration of the incarnation of God in Jesus mean to you personally?
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Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.