25 December, Saturday — Come bearing a Gift

Dec 25 – Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

Christmas Day — Mass at Dawn

The name ‘Christmas’ was derived from Old English: ‘Cristes Maesse’ — Christ’s Mass. It is a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of our Lord. In the earliest days of the Church, there was no such feast; the Saviour’s birth was commemorated with the Epiphany by the Greek and other Eastern Churches.

The first mention of the feast, then kept on May 20, was made by Clement of Alexandria in the year 200. The Latin Church began in the year 300 to observe it on Dec 25, though there is no certainty that our Lord was born on that day.

Priests have, on this day, the privilege of saying three Masses — at midnight; daybreak, and morning. This was originally reserved for the pope alone; beginning about the fourth century, he celebrated a midnight Mass in the Lateran Basilica (in which according to tradition, the manger of Bethlehem is preserved), a second in the church of St. Anastasia, whose feast comes on Dec 25, and a third at the Vatican Basilica.

Many peculiar customs of the day are the outcome of the pagan celebrations of the January calends. The Christmas tree, of which the first known mention was made in 1605 at Strasbourg, was introduced into France and England in 1840. The feast is a holy day of obligation, preceded by the preparatory season of Advent and by a special vigil; should it fall on a Friday, it abrogates the law of abstinence.

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Isa 62:11-12
Tit 3:4-7
Lk 2:15-20

The Lord has made known to us!

Good blessed morning my brothers and sisters. What a glorious day! Today we celebrate the wonderful birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Our church has been in preparation for weeks, our homes decorated and adorned for this celebration. Our hearts all scrubbed and prepared for Christ to dwell in. It is indeed the most wonderful time of the year.

I wonder how it was for the shepherds then. It probably was just another cold December day, when they received an apparition out of nowhere! Jolted out of their mundane normalcy, the angel of the Lord appears, telling them news of great joy; that a saviour has been born in the town of David. The shepherds probably took some time to recover from the shock; the vision of the angel blazing in a great light and the news told to them. What a relief to hear, “Do not be afraid.”

If it were you or I, what would our reaction have been? Would we think we saw a ghost? Would we believe the angel? From my AD2021 viewpoint, I’d probably brush this sighting aside and think that I might be too tired or imagining things. I would have completely missed witnessing a magnificent moment in history, seeing the young Joseph, teenage Mary and our baby Jesus in the flesh!

But not the shepherds! Immediately they ask amongst themselves, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” And off they go, either on foot or by donkey or horse, trudging to Bethlehem, in the cold, windy night. They have no idea where they are going, trying to recall every detail the angels spoke about and excitedly going through every street looking into every stable, looking for that manger.

And when they finally find the young couple with the little baby, what did they see?

The classic nativity setting, like the one set up in our parishes or our homes. The sweet and beautiful face of Madonna and cute baby Jesus wrapped up in cotton diapers cooing in the crib of soft clean hay, smelling like baby powder? Handsome and dashing Joseph? The bright, shiny star right above the stable with ambient lighting all around? Sorry to burst your Netflix or Hallmark version of Christmas. It probably didn’t look anything like this. It was probably dark, dirty, smelly and messy.

I invite you to close your eyes for a moment and view Christmas through the eyes of faith. Here in the stable is a young couple, tired from all the travelling, looking a bit disconcerted and dishevelled. A very ordinary looking couple peering worriedly into an unpolished manger. As we look closely, it’s an ordinary baby. However, in this manger is proof that God is real. Proof of His absolute and unconditional love for us all. At Christmas, He gives us the only gift we will ever need – a promise that He is about to do something so wonderful — the gift of His Son. He could have sent His Son in all His glory, in grandiose pageantry, befitting of royalty. But here in this manger, God took on all of our sorrows, burdens, pains and troubles in our lives, in order to gift us our salvation.  He came to show us what the love of God means, and how far it goes to bless us and save us. God became human, by becoming an infant, to take our place in death for our sins.

Today, let us also celebrate the gift of Papa Joseph and Mama Mary. As Mary pondered what the angel of God told her in her heart, it must have been so difficult to comprehend. Despite the humiliation and pain, the Holy couple cared for and loved their son for 33 years, only to lose Him for our sake.

Brothers and sisters, this Christmas Day, let us give thanks to God and sing praises. Can we share the wonders of God and His love with our fellow non-Christian neighbours today?  

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Abba Father, today we celebrate the birthday of Your Son. In the midst of the festivities and celebrations, let us not forget the reason for the season. Let us be Christ to those around us and be the face of love and compassion.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for loving us so much that you were willing to sacrifice your Beloved Son, Our Saviour, Jesus. Thank you Mother for your ‘yes’.

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