In today’s Gospel the evangelist John speaks of the true light, so that makes it the perfect Gospel passage for the Christmas Mass during the Day: daytime is the brightest moment on Christmas Day. We need spiritual light to grasp the profundity of this day. We need to gaze upon the manger, gaze upon the baby Jesus, and remind ourselves: “this is God, and he’s come to save and love me.” In a cave in Bethlehem, probably in a little hollowed out part of rock filled with some straw, God was born as a baby for me. What does that say about him, and what does that say about me?
In today’s First Reading Isaiah reminds us that with the First Coming of the Lord everything he brings as a “gift” mankind is a cause for joy. The day of the Lord, like the coming of the Messiah, was seen more along the lines of someone powerful coming to “clean house” in a socio-political way. No one can deny that the coming of the Messiah did bring tremendous changes on the socio-political level, but all would agree that Christ did not bring them in the way anyone expected. The Gospel is the good news. The Gospel is Christ himself. Therefore, Christ doesn’t only bring good news, but is good news. The coming of the Lord at Christmas brings us the hope of salvation, peace, and redemption. His coming does not just bring good news to Israel, but to “all the nations” and “all the ends of the earth.” The power of God and his salvation are revealed to all, starting with a little cave in Bethlehem, then choirs of angels, then shepherds, then Kings, and so on.
Today’s Second Reading reminds us that, in Jesus, God has now said it all. We call Jesus Christ the Word of God for a reason. None of the other messengers sent throughout salvation history were on a par with God himself. Neither man nor angel could compare to God coming in Person. Through the birth of the Son of God at Christmas we see our relationship with God in a new light. We see Jesus as our big brother giving us the opportunity to acknowledge and have God not only as our Creator, but as Our Father. With the coming of Jesus we don’t just have a few new facts revealed, continuing a gradual revelation throughout salvation history: through his Word, God has now said it all. The mystery of what God is trying to say by coming in Person as a little infant in a manger gives us plenty to pray about and contemplate. Seeing him a sleeping newborn today reminds us that Christ’s entire Incarnation is meant to communicate something, not just the words he’ll began to speak as he grows older.
As John reminds us in today’s Gospel, the true light that enlightens everyone has come into the world with the Incarnation and birth of Jesus. The Son of God is also the Word of God. He himself is the message. All of creation occurred through him and with him in mind, so he is the key to unlocking the meaning of creation itself, including us. He became flesh and dwelt among us because he wanted to communicate something to us Personally and profoundly. It was unexpected and, to many, unobserved, but, starting with the Holy Family, those who received him in faith gained the ability to become, like the Son, children of God. We gaze today upon the baby Jesus in a manger and see the Word whom God the Father had in mind when he created the whole world. The baby Jesus is the key that unlocks the meaning of our existence here on earth; and even in a manger the Word is communicating to us without so much as a peep.
One of the most beautiful things about Christmas are the hymns. They’re truly treasures that have stood the test of time. They let us easily foster and express our joy at the birth of Christ. Why not contemplate the lyrics this week of your favorite hymn? It is always good to explore the reasons for our joy. Sometimes the hymns don’t directly speak of the events in and around Our Savior’s birth, but they present a great opportunity to consider the traditions that have sprung around the Nativity.
Readings: Isaiah 52:7–10; Psalm 98:1–6; Hebrews 1:1–6; John 1:1–18.