Dec. 24, 2019

VIGIL MASS FOR THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD (CHRISTMAS), 2019

WHEN EVERYTHING IS NEW

Readings: 1st- Is. 62:1-5; 2nd- Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Gospel- Matt. 1:1-25 

There is a certain newness which goes with this season. The readings of today give us the reason; Christ, Emmanuel, God-is-with-us. The prophet Isaiah kicks it off with a romantic picture of God’s presence. God’s love for Zion, his compassion for Jerusalem, is so strong. Using the imagery of the bridegroom’s love for his bride, he declares, “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet.” The prophet speaks about the transformation of God’s people, “Nations shall behold your vindication, and all the kings your glory; you shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord” (Is. 62:2). God’s chosen ones shall be called by a new name. They shall be renewed in heart and soul. Isaiah captures this newness thus, “You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the Lord, a royal diadem held by your God. No more shall people call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,” but you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.” What a powerful message! Like Zion and Jerusalem, this message brings hope to all of us at Christmas. The long-awaited savior is here. He is our Emmanuel, God is with us. His presence causes unmitigated newness among believers.  

Paul traces this newness to the enthronement of David as king of Israel. King David replaced Saul on the throne for this reason; God was preparing a kingdom for his Son in fulfillment of his salvation plan for humanity. God declared, “I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart.” David’s kingdom established the newness which incorporated humanity into the divine plan, the platform for the messianic era. Saint Paul writes, “From this man’s descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.” 

Matthew’s genealogy recounts the family tree of Christ. In the genealogy, Matthew portrays images of both relationship and continuity. We hear about Old Testament figures who formed part of this great history. Again, David is prominent as the foundational structure for the human origin of Christ and as God promised him, “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). Matthew recalls, “Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations” (Matt. 1:17). David’s kingdom, therefore, formed the bridge between the Old and the New. In his kingdom, God founded a dynasty that would last forever, a dynasty that would bring God’s promise of salvation to fulfillment. 

Newness in dignity. The coming of Christ restores human dignity and freedom. Five different women are included in the long history of the ancestry of Jesus. While these women existed in far different contexts, each of them gave birth quite in an extraordinary fashion. They also demonstrated the inclusion of the Gentiles in the plan of salvation. Tamar, for instance, was a Canaanite woman, who slept with her father-in-law Judah and gave birth to twins. Rahab was the prostitute from Jericho who saved the spies sent by Joshua by letting them escape through the window. These women brought forth descendants of Abraham and David, thereby prepared the way for the coming of the messiah and the inclusion of the Gentiles. They were women of courage. We also see Mary who introduced unique femininity in the history of Christ. Scripture speaks of her this way, “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means, “God is with us.” Mary changed the genealogy format. She became the realization of the meaning of freedom and dignity in Christ, “Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.” Mary’s story is tied to that of Jesus. In her Son, the Savior is born. He is the Messiah. He is the Word made flesh. He is Emmanuel. Jesus, therefore, gives meaning to our own genealogies, “For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16).

At Christmas, everything is new. Kids look forward to new toys- play-doh, tea party, pediatric doctor barbie, unicorn purse. Youths and teenagers look forward to new dresses. Girls look forward to new make-ups and hairstyles. Guys look forward to new suits and shoes. We experience an outburst of newness; exchanges of gifts fill the atmosphere of Christmas. Families get together in a new fashion, eat new food, exchange new fellowships. Strangers travel to visit their loved ones at home and to share the newness of sight and conversations. Homes wear a new look- Christmas trees are set up, new flowers adorn the environment. The lights are lit up. The birds chant gleefully. The weather smells fresh. Everything is aglow with the presence of a new reality. The newborn king is here, Emmanuel is born. The Choirs of heaven sing, “Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright…

The newness which Christ brings is beyond mere decorations. It is beyond fixing flowers and setting up Christmas trees which will all be dismantled at some point. It is about the newness of love, joy, goodness, holiness, and peace. Such newness should be rooted in the hearts of every human person. In this newness, life is guaranteed; love is evident; forgiveness is available; trust and safety are present. In this newness, the unborn is cherished, the pregnant mother is respected. In this newness, the needy and the oppressed experience freedom, the homeless feel warmth. In this newness, the naked and the lonely are adorned with warmth and compassion. In this newness, the hungry are fed with the flower of human love and affection. This newness identifies with the sick and the suffering. It provides inspiration for the weak. It is the newness that upholds the welfare of everyone in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not be quiet, until her vindication shines forth like the dawn and her victory like a burning torch” (Is. 62:1). 

Let’s all start anew. Let’s celebrate this newness at Christmas. Someone, you need to forgive? Someone that deserves your care and love? Someone hurting because of you or someone hurting you? God is speaking newness into you through the birth of Christ. Take it to your home! Have those around you feel it. That’s the meaning of Emmanuel, God is with us!

May we forever sing the goodness of the Lord.