Nativity of our Lord—25 December
“The Lord himself shall give you a sign.
Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”
Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
We hear these words from the Old
Testament prophet Isaias, spoken roughly eight centuries before the birth of
Christ. “Emmanuel (לאונמע)” in
Hebrew means “God is with us. And after all those years transpired, the
Immaculate Virgin did indeed conceive by the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost,
did bear a Son, and God is indeed with us. This is, of course, the meaning
of Christmas: God is with His people.
On Christmas we are privileged to
celebrate three Masses: one at midnight, another at dawn, and a third at
mid-morning. The Church provides three separate texts for these Masses,
each with its own proper readings, chants, and prayers. In the first and
second Mass, we read of the birth of our Lord at Bethlehem. Mary and
Joseph journeyed to the city of David, found no room in the inn. Jesus was
born in a stable, placed in a manger, and adored by angels. Obviously a
fitting narrative for the birth of our Lord as man.
But in the third Mass, the Church reads
us a Gospel that is intended to show us our Lord’s birth from another
perspective. Saint John tells us about the second Person of the Holy
Trinity, who was God and who was with the Father before all ages. That is
to say that the second Divine Person did not come into being with the
Annunciation or with the first Christmas—He existed even before anything
material or spiritual was created—an eternity of ages before speaking through
the prophet Isaias.
The Child born on Christmas day was
unique in having both human and divine nature. The Creator so loved his
creation—man and woman—that He became one of us to redeem us from original
sin. Man had sinned through Adam, with the cooperation of Eve—and only
man could make amends—the new Adam, with the cooperation of the new Eve, in
the person of Mary of Nazareth.
But in the sin of Adam, mankind had
offended the infinite God. The insignificant creature had offended
the infinite Creator. The creature possessed nothing with which to make
amends. It is for this reason that God took on lowly human nature,
becoming for us the God‑man. Jesus Christ, true God and true man was
no insignificant creature—indeed, He was the Creator. Born of a Virgin,
sinless from the moment of her Immaculate Conception, our Lord was like us in
all things but sin.
We might ask “why did God do this for
us?” He knew in advance that His birth would not be under comfortable
conditions. He knew that His entire life would be lived under marginal
conditions, and would end in the excruciating pain of crucifixion. So, why
would He do this? Why did He find it necessary to become man at all?
The answer, of course, is that He loved us. That is the most important
aspect of Christmas: that we understand the love that God has for
us—that we return that love—and that in doing so we develop a love of fellow
man. If God loved each and every one of us—and He did—we must also
recognize something lovable in each and every one of us.
Christmas has always been a season of
good will—filled with singing, and feasting, and card sending, and gift
giving. And that is good—we should share a certain mutual joy in this
day and throughout the Christmas season. Pope Saint Leo I—Leo the
Great—went so far as to say that that “it would be unlawful to be sad” on
Christmas day, “for today is life’s birthday”!
But I urge you to remember that our love
should be directed primarily towards God—that above all, beyond any of the
hustle and bustle of the season, Christmas is the birthday of our Savior.
So, when you leave Mass today, leave knowing that Jesus Christ loves you as both
as He is man and as He is God. Return that love, and share it with those
around you—share it in the peace that only the love of Jesus Christ can bring.
“Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear
and his name shall be called Emmanuel.”
God is with His people!