December 25, 2016


December 25, 2016:  Christmas

See two dozen connections with today?
Legend below

From Handel's Messiah
For next Sunday:  Psalm 67:  May God bless us/ Celoni:  sheet music, just written (based on the other setting on the page)
Pope Francis
Homily:  “God's grace has appeared for the salvation of all.”  In the Child given us, God's love is made visible.  The infinite and eternal God is with us; made man, he'll never distance himself.  Light has appeared and enveloped the shepherds, who discover “a child is born” and understand that all this glory, joy, and light converge to one point, the angel's sign: “a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  This is the sign to find Jesus, then and now.  To celebrate Christmas, contemplate this sign:  the fragility of a newborn, the meekness of where he lies, the tender affection of the swaddling clothes.  With this sign the Gospel reveals a paradox:  God doesn't make himself present in the emperor, the governor, the mighty, a grand hall, but in a stable, in the simplicity of life; in smallness that surprises.  To discover him, we need to go where he is:  to humble ourselves, make ourselves small.  The Child challenges us, calling us to leave illusions behind and to renounce our insatiable claims, abandon our dissatisfaction and sadness for what we'll never have, to rediscover in the simplicity of the God-child peace, joy, and the meaning of life.
Allow the Child to challenge us, but allow today's children to challenge us too; they're not in a cot caressed with parents' affection but suffer squalid mangers that devour dignity:  underground to escape bombardment, on city pavement, on immigrant-laden boats.  Allow yourself to be challenged by children who aren't allowed to be born, those whose hunger nobody satisfies, those who hold weapons, not toys.
The mystery of Christmas unsettles us:  light and joy, hope and sadness.  It bears sadness, inasmuch as love is not received, and life discarded.  This happened to Joseph and Mary, who found closed doors, no place in the inn.  Jesus was born rejected by some and regarded by others with indifference.  Today indifference can also exist, when we're the protagonists of Christmas instead of Jesus; when the lights of commerce cast God into the shadows; when we're cold towards the marginalized. 
Yet Christmas holds hope because God’s light shines out.  God who is in love with us draws us to himself tenderly, born fragile, as one of us, in Bethlehem ('house of bread').  He's born as bread for us; he enters life to give us his life; he comes to give us his love, to nourish, to serve.  A direct thread joins manger and cross, where Jesus becomes bread broken; it's the thread of the love that saves us, bringing light and peace.  The marginalized shepherds grasped this, but no one is marginalized in God's sight and it was they who were invited to the Nativity.  The self-sufficient were at home with their possessions while the shepherds went with haste.  Let Jesus challenge you tonight.  Go to him with trust, from the marginalized area in us, from our limitations.  Touch the tenderness that saves.  Draw near to God who draws near to us; look upon the crib, and imagine Jesus' birth:  light, peace, poverty, rejection.  Enter into the Nativity with the shepherds, taking to Jesus your all, your alienation, your wounds; then enjoy the beauty of being loved by God.  With Mary and Joseph we pause before the manger, before Jesus born as bread for your life.  Say thank you, because Jesus has done all this for me.
Urbi et orbi message:  The power of this Child, Son of God and Son of Mary, is not the power of this world; it's the power of love, the power of creation, the force that unites people, the power that gives new birth, pardons faults, reconciles enemies, and transforms evil to good.  It's God's power, the power of love that led Christ to strip himself of glory, become man, give his life on the cross, and rise from the dead.  It's the power of service that inaugurates God's Kingdom in our world, a kingdom of justice and peace.  So angels sang at Jesus' birth, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace...!”  Today this message goes out to all, especially those scarred by war and conflicts that seem stronger than the yearning for peace.

Peace to all in war-torn Syria.  It is time for weapons to be still and for the international community to negotiate a solution and restore civil coexistence.  Peace to all of the Holy Land.  May Israelis and Palestinians write a new page of history, building a future of mutual understanding and harmony.  May Iraq, Libya and Yemen find unity and concord.  Peace to all in Africa, especially Nigeria, where terrorism exploits even children, and South Sudan and the Congo, so that divisions may be healed and all may undertake the path of development, preferring dialogue to the conflict.  Peace to all who suffer from the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.  We implore harmony for the people of Colombia seeking a path of dialogue and reconciliation.  May they also motivate Venezuela to put an end to tension, and build a future of hope.  Peace to all who suffer from dangers and injustice.  May Myanmar promote peaceful coexistence and protect and help all who need it.  May the Korean peninsula see their tensions overcome through cooperation.  Peace to those who have lost a dear one to terrorism, and to those who have sown fear and death.  Peace to the abandoned and excluded, the hungry, victims of violence, exiles, migrants, refugees, victims of human trafficking, all who suffer because of economic ambitions of the few, all affected by social and economic unrest, and victims of earthquakes or other catastrophes.
On this day when God became a child, peace to children, especially those deprived of the joys of childhood because of hunger, war, or adults' selfishness.  Peace to all who work to build a more humane and just world....  Welcome the Prince of Peace!  Contemplate the Child Jesus, who gives hope to every person on earth.  Let us with our voices and our actions give witness to solidarity and peace.

During the night ("midnight")
  • Is 9:1-6  The people in darkness have seen a great light; they rejoice.  A son is born to us:  Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
  • Ps 96: 1-3, 11-13  "Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord."  Sing a new song of God's salvation; the Lord comes to rule with justice.
  • Ti 2:11-14  God's grace has appeared, saving, training us to live temperately, justly, and devoutly as we await the appearance of the glory of Christ.
  • Lk 2:1-14  Mary gave birth to a son.  An angel appeared to shepherds and said, “Fear not; I proclaim news of great joy for all:  a savior, Christ, and Lord has been born for you.  You'll find an infant in a manger.”  “Glory to God, and peace to those on whom God's favor rests.”

  • Is 62:11-12  God proclaims, your savior comes!  They shall be called the redeemed of the Lord.
  • Ps 97:1, 6, 11-12  "A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us."  Rejoice; the Lord is king.  Light dawns for the just.  Be glad in the Lord, and give thanks.
  • Ti 3:4-7  When God's love graciously appeared, he saved us through rebirth and renewal by the Spirit, poured out on us through Jesus Christ, so we might be justified and become heirs of eternal life.
  • Lk 2:15-20  Shepherds went to Bethlehem and found Mary, Joseph, and the infant.  They made known the angel's message, the hearers were amazed.  Mary reflected on this in her heart.  They returned, praising God.
  • Is 52:7-10  How beautiful those who bring glad tidings, announcing peace and salvation.  Sing out, for the Lord comforts and redeems his people.  All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God.
  • Ps 98:1-6  "All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God."  The Lord has revealed his salvation, justice, kindness, and faithfulness.  Sing praise!
  • Heb 1:1-6  Before, God spoke through the prophets; now he's spoken to us through the Son, heir of all, imprint of his being.  He's now at the Majesty's right hand, superior to angels.  Let all God's angels worship him.
  • Jn 1:1-18  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  All life came to be through him, and this life was the light of the human race, and darkness hasn't overcome it.  God sent John to testify to the light, so all might believe.  The true light came to what was his own.  The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  From his fullness we've received; while Moses gave the law, Jesus Christ brought grace and truth.  No one has seen God; the Son, at the Father’s side, revealed him.
    • Creighton:  This is the gift of Christmas:  God, who created the vast, amazing, dynamic, magnificent universe, comes to us as an infant.  He enters human time then and now to bring light to people who walk in the darkness of fear; to give hope to those who see no end to suffering and difficulty; to bring courage and strength to those who know they're weak and helpless.  He sent his son, then and now, into the world of sin and death, grief and sorrow, terror and shame.  God mingled time and eternal joy into the person of Jesus.  God has entered, enters, and will always enter into our time and place, bringing salvation from all that can destroy us.  Today, here, is born our savior, the promised one.
      Gaze into the Infant's face and see the light of hope, the power of courage, the energy to live fully.  Gaze lovingly at others and see God’s people, who walked in darkness but now see light.  Look into the fear and death that surrounds you and know God is gazing at you with mercy, bringing light and life.  Christ reigns from the throne of your heart if you give him room in the inn of your being.  His reign is mercy.  Rejoice; your salvation comes through the love of a human born to disclose and share love alone.  May this gift of Christmas be yours! 
        Birth of Christ mural/ Bjorgen
        (more Nativity art)
      • One Bread, One Body:  "Constricted by Love":  Jesus was constricted for love of us.  The Eternal Word of God, whom the universe can't contain, is constricted in Mary's womb.  Jesus, through whom all came into being, accepts the constraints and limitations of a human body.  Swaddling clothes encircled and constricted him.  The government hunted him down.  His family fled.  He was constricted as a Refugee in a land far from home.  He was constricted on the cross, pressed to its wood by nails.  He was constricted again by swaddling clothes, burial cloths wrapped around his body, then constricted in a tomb.  All because "God is Love," and love endures all things.
      • Passionist:  "A softening of heart":  We may still be pleading, “Ransom captive Israel,” for the rich/poor gap deepens, and terrorism, violence, and political turmoil persist.  But our time of fulfillment is at hand. We've pondered the paradox of wolf as lamb's guest, baby at play near the cobra’s den, desert blooming with flowers, crooked ways made straight.  Insignificant Bethlehem in a violent Rome-dominated world, a young frightened refugee couple giving birth in a stable, a threatened monarch ordering the murder of countless infants....  We celebrate Christmas in the context of fear and insecurity.  May our hearts be softened so we may be the change we want to see in the world (Gandhi).
      •  "The shepherds glorified God":  Jesus' birth fulfilled the prophecy that the Messiah would descend from David and be born in Bethlehem.  The first to hear the news of the savior's birth were not the rulers and leaders but the humble ready to receive him. Just as God chose lowly shepherd David to become shepherd king, so Jesus chose lowliness and came as the shepherd king to lay down his life for us.  After the angels sang in the shepherds' presence, the shepherds adored the newborn king and sang.
      "Heaven and earth are united, for Christ is born!  God has come upon earth, and we've gone up to heaven. The invisible one is seen in the flesh.  Glorify him and cry, glory to God, and on earth peace!  I hear the angels:  glory to God whose pleasure it was that there be peace!  The Virgin is more spacious than the heavens.  Light has shone on those in darkness, exalting the lowly:  Glory to God!  Beholding Adam who was in God’s image but fell, Jesus came down, taking up his dwelling in a virgin womb, that he might refashion Adam fallen in corruption, and crying out, glory to your epiphany, my Savior and God!" (John the Monk, Hymn of the Nativity of the Lord)
      We needed a savior to reconcile us with God. The Word became flesh for us to show us God's love and mercy for us sinners.  We celebrate Jesus Christ our redeemer who reigns in heaven and in in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, and we commemorate the birth of the newborn Messiah King. We praise God for how he saved us by sending his son.  God wants to fill us with joy and gratitude for the gift of his Son.  God freely assumed a human nature to save us.  Jesus came to release us from slavery to sin and open heaven's gates. The Spirit invites us to adore Jesus our King, our good shepherd, who guides and cares for us and gives us everlasting life and union with God.  Today heaven joins with all believers in a song of praise.  "To you is born a Savior, Christ the Lord"
      Christmas joy isn't just for today or the season; it's forever.  It's the joy of Jesus himself given to us through the Spirit; no one can take it away, and no pain nor sorrow can diminish it....
      Dress legend
      • 'Peace sign' tie bar:  They name him Prince of Peace (night 1st reading); how beautiful those announcing peace and saying... (day 1st reading)
      • 'Crown' tie bar:  ...“Your God is King!” (day 1st reading, dawn psalm); Child confirms/sustains his kingdom (night 1st reading)
      • 'Olympics' tie pin:  All the ends of the earth will behold/have seen the salvation by our God (day 1st reading/psalm); the Lord proclaims the Savior to the ends of the earth (dawn 1st reading)
      • 'Treble clef' tie pin:  Sing to the Lord a new song (day psalm, night psalm)
      • 'Hand' tie pin:  The Lord's right hand has won victory (day psalm)
      • 'Angel' pin:  To which angel did God say, You are my son...; Let the angels worship him (day 2nd reading); angel appeared to shepherds (night gospel)
      • 'Christmas lights' tie:  Life came through the Word, the light of the human race, shining in darkness (day gospel); A light will shine on us this day (dawn psalm); the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (night 1st reading)
      • 'Dove' pin:  He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Spirit (dawn 2nd reading)
      • 'Sheep' tie bar:  Shepherds:  "Let us go to Bethlehem..." (dawn gospel); there were shepherds in the fields (night gospel)
      • 'Mary,' 'heart' pins:  Mary kept these things, reflecting on them in her heart (dawn gospel)
      • 'Happy birthday, Jesus' pin:  Nativity of our Lord!
      • 'No-"L"' pin:  Joyeux Noël!
      • 'Tree' pin:  Trees shall exult for the Lord comes (night psalm)
      • 'Abacus' tie pin:  Census (night gospel)

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