25 December, Sunday — We are free!

Christmas Day — Mass during the day

Isa 52:7-10
Heb 1:1-6
Jn 1:1-18

How beautiful…are the feet of the one who brings good news…

Good Blessed Christmas to everyone! What can be better than being home for Christmas, opening presents, eating food and singing Christmas carols? But is this all there is to Christmas? The party and festivities?

Being ‘home’ for Christmas takes on a whole new meaning, when we consider the One who loves us more than anyone or anything — our God, the LORD. The most meaningful way to spend Christmas is with the Lord. And so, for me, no matter where I am in the world, it means much to me that I begin this blessed day by attending mass, giving thanks to God Our Father for the gift of His son, Jesus and for guiding me and protecting me throughout 2022.

In today’s first reading, Isaiah describes some quite enthusiastic individuals. Watchmen on Jerusalem’s walls who exclaim, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet one who brings good news.” They shout with delight, raising their voices as they sing. These watchmen observe individuals scurrying across the distant hills bearing good news — the news of salvation and peace — that God is king! However, we must comprehend the extent of the watchmen’s anguish in order to fully comprehend their exhilaration and joy.

The Israelites were meant to be God’s people for all time! They were circumcised and were designated for the Lord, who had made a covenant with them after freeing them from slavery in Egypt. However, they turned away from God, went astray and worshipped false gods. God gave his people away after repeatedly warning them, through his prophets, about the magnitude of their sins and the punishment they deserved. God dispatched foreign armies to plunder, rob, and capture them and their land was cursed by God. Jerusalem was completely destroyed. It became a wasteland and ruins, similar to Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Israelites were oppressed and defeated, outnumbered and punished, captured and humiliated. Other nations mocked the Israelites and their God, because God had allowed this to happen to them. We often ask when we are met with misfortunate – if God is all-powerful, why would He allow sin and death to enter the world? One might be led to think that the presence of evil indicates that God is not as powerful as we claim, much like how foreign nations mocked God’s people when the Babylonians overthrew them.

The Israelites suffered total loss. They were emotionally, mentally, and spiritually crushed. They felt dejected, apathetic, and disheartened. But the hardest part of their anguish is the realization that they had themselves to blame; they saw the damage their sin had caused. The enormity of the devastation they faced emphasized the magnitude of their sin. This was the most humiliating and depressing experience of their lives.

When we look at our own lives, can we reflect on the severity of our sins? Or are we so ambivalent, that we do not see our sins as serious? Have we gone for penitential service only to tick the box before Christmas? Make ourselves feel better? Sin that is not confessed with a contrite heart reduces our faith to nothing. Like the priest said to me in confession recently, God knows our heart. Are we truly sorry for the sins confessed? Like the Israelites, we will be defeated and overcome by sin and death, if not. A Christmas without God would be completely without hope.

But brothers and sisters, we are not hopeless people. We are people of hope! God gave us such a beautiful gift this day – His Son. Let us not take this precious gift for granted but treasure it! Let us make God proud of His people and say, “It was worth it.”

As the watchman on the wall observes the flurry of activity, he sees heralds and messengers racing to Jerusalem from afar. He hears them exclaim, “We’re free! We’re finally free! The war has ended! We’re returning! God has set us free! Peace! Salvation! Your God has once again demonstrated his compassion. He restores your fortunes! Your God is King!” The watchman cannot believe what he is hearing and cannot help but cry out, shout, and embrace the watchmen next to him.

Let us remember the true meaning of Christmas on this beautiful Christmas day, surrounded by our loved ones. This Christmas, may your hearts be lifted in thanksgiving for the wonderful gift of Jesus and the joy He brings to our lives. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: On this day, help us to take a moment and remember Your love and celebrate the gift of Your only Son. Beyond the gifts and the merrymaking, may we listen to the real meaning of Christmas. Today, help me refocus my heart and remember why I am celebrating this wonderful day.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father, for restoring me in the sacrament of reconciliation. Thank you for washing me clean with your love and compassion. By your grace, help me not to sin again. Lord, thank You for coming to earth to redeem me.

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