The Feast of Christmas A

“God is with us.”

After long forty days’ preparation, we are here to celebrate Christmas, birthday of our lord Jesus. This began as we celebrated thanksgiving, everywhere Christmas decorations, lights and music. As Christians in the Church began with advent prayer, penance and sacrifice. This waiting and preparation picture in lighting different advent candles. Now it is complete. We were very busy doing different things, shopping, cooking, decorating and family coming together. Perhaps, it was wonderful time. This is a beautiful season. On this day, Jesus came to the earth as human beings to make us worthy of God. This is celebration of true God and true man, as our savior and redeemer, born little baby. This is the reason to rejoice.

Tonight’s vigil Mass gospel reading is long. In there, Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy from Abraham. Though we often skip over these lists of names, the Gospel writers took great pains to compile the genealogies and to make several theological points in the process. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom Matthew arranges into three groups: 14 Patriarchs, 14 Kings and 14 Princes. The three groups are based on the three stages of Jewish history: i) the rise of Israel to a great kingdom by the time of David, ii) the fall of the nation by the time of Babylonian exile and iii) the resurrection of the nation after the exile. Strangely enough, the list includes a number of disreputable characters, including three women of bad reputation: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba. Perhaps the Lord God included these women in His Son's human genealogy to emphasize God's grace, to give us all hope and to show us that Jesus is sent to save sinners. Thus, God's powerful work of salvation comes to us under the appearance of weakness. From the beginning, Matthew's account challenges our human expectations as to how God will fulfill our hopes for endless peace, justice, and righteousness. This was done to show that Jesus is truly a man. He had family, as all humans beings he ate and drank. He also felt joys and sorrows, pains and sufferings.

 

This is wonderful to see Christians’ making cribs to prepare themselves for Christmas. In this way, it becomes vivid on the earth the coming of Jesus. It was St Francis of Assisi who assembled the first crib in a cave on an Italian hillside. It was in 1293 that the first crèche was erected in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve. The crib was ready, hay was brought, the ox and the donkey were led to the spot. Greccio became a new Bethlehem. The aim of St. Francis was to make the Christmas story come alive for the people of the locality. His idea was to show them how close it was to them and their lives. And it seems that he succeeded.  St. Chrysostom has said, “The God has become son of man, in order to make us sons and daughters of God.”

But he is also true God. In his gospel, Mathew makes it clear. Before, Mary and Joseph came, she was found with baby. Joseph was confused and thought to divorce her. But in the dream appearing the Angel Gabriel told baby is from above, through the Holy Spirit. We also hear, when Mary went to serve Elizabeth in the hill country of Juda, filled with the Holy Spirit spoke out “How does this happen that to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me.”  Even Baby John leaped with joy in the womb of the mother. At the river Jordon, we hear “You are my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” The Gospel chosen for the morning mass tells us how the word which existed from the beginning became incarnate for us and pitched his tent among us. John tells us that he is the light that shines in the darkness and takes away the darkness from within us. In all gospels, we find testimony of God. Jesus is picture of God on this earth. 

This is what we have to understand as we contemplate the scene in the Christmas Crib. That Jesus is the Son of God who adopted human form and who came into our world in order to submit himself to death by human hands. He did this so that in his resurrection he could turn everything to our advantage and so manifest his forgiveness of every human being. This is what Christmas means and it is of the utmost significance for the entire world. It is something that we celebrate and take joy in but it is also something that we know we must proclaim to all those who have not fully understood what it is really about. Our desire this Christmas is that the real significance of the feast permeates our whole lives and changes us. Our wish is that it makes us better people and turns us definitively away from sin. We also want the good effects it has on us to be transmitted to the rest of the human family.

When we continue our celebration, let us be ready to welcome him, look for him and you shall find salvation. True Salvation to the problem of the world is only in him. He only gives us ultimate meaning of life, pain and setbacks. let us read and listen to the word God, try to truly live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, the Son of God that has come into us. Only then, we shall realize that, together, we could truly build a better world.  

A four-year-old girl went with a group of family and friends to see the Christmas lights, displayed at various locations throughout the city. At one church, they stopped and got out to look more closely at a beautiful nativity scene. “Isn’t that beautiful?” said the little girl’s grandmother. “Look at all the animals, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.”  “Yes, Grandma,” replied the granddaughter. “It is really nice. But there is only one thing that bothers me. Isn’t Baby Jesus ever going to grow up…? He’s the same size he was last year!”

 

2nd Sunday of Advent C

 

When passing through a mountain, a villager once came across an old man who was blind and who seemed to be afflicted with various ailments all over his body. It was clear that he was wasting away. He was even paralyzed and was constantly forced to remain in a seated position. The Villager could clearly hear him say, “All praise is for God who has kept me safe from ailments with which He has tested many among His creation; and He has indeed preferred me over many among those that He created.” “My brother!” exclaimed the man. “What have you been saved from? By God? I think that you have been afflicted with every single kind of ailment!” “Go away from me,” said the old man, as he raised his head. “Do I not still have a tongue with which I can pronounce His Oneness, and with which I can remember Him every single moment? And do I not still have a heart with which I can know Him?” These words of the old man were enough for the Villager to repent to God for his sins and ask Him for forgiveness. Remember, there is always someone else who is in more problem than you.

In the Gospel reading we heard about St. John’s Baptism of repentance. It was not a proselyte baptism, converting Gentiles into Jews. In proselyte baptism, the Gentile would be immersed in a body of water (called a mikveh), to symbolize death and burial to his Gentile past, and then would be raised up from the water to symbolize being “born again,” raised to a new life as a Jew. This baptism symbolized turning from the past and turning toward a new life with God in the future. And what was repentance? It was a turning from the new Jew’s pattern of sin in the past and turning toward God. John’s baptism offered to Jews, was, thus extraordinary. It was a “baptism of repentance,” a baptism for the forgiveness of sins committed by those who were Jews already, and it required repentance (metanoeo, a change of being), which implied a turning around to proceed in a new direction True repentance is not just a 180 degree turn from the sin, but an all-out, full bore, frantic sprint back toward God. ["Our basic problem is a heart problem. We need to get the heart changed, the heart transformed" (Rev. Billy Graham).] John, then, was inviting the Chosen people to be purified of the unholy elements in their lives.  Fulfilling the prophetic words of Isaiah, John the Baptist’ preaching assisted in ensuring that in the lives of everyone who was baptized, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth” (Lk 3:5). Isiah was referring to mountains of pride and arrogance and valleys of discouragement and despair. As with Baruch, John presents an image of the mountains and valleys being made flat and smooth as a sign of Israel’s repentance and moral transformation.

John called people to repent as a way of preparing their hearts and lives for the Lord's visit.  He is calling us, too, to get ready for something so great that it fills our emptiness with expectation.  A smooth road means nothing to God, but a repentant heart means a great deal.  Hence, the truly important goal for us is to prepare our hearts to receive the Lord.  By emphasizing the last line of the quotation "All flesh will see the salvation of God," Luke stresses the universal aspect of God's salvation.  Having begun the section with a list of rulers who did not bring wholeness or salvation, Luke ends with the expectation of a true Lord Who can bring these about.  We don't live in a perfect world, and we don't look to this world to see God's salvation.  For salvation, we have to look to Jesus -- Jesus present in Scripture, Jesus present in the Sacraments, Jesus present in our coming together in his name, Jesus present in the lives of his followers.  Perhaps if we began to see Jesus in each other and in ourselves, and started to treat one another (and ourselves), as we would treat Jesus, more of the world might come to see God's salvation. 

We need to repent and seek forgiveness from God and our fellow-human beings: John's message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We have to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God's forgiveness.  There are basically two reasons why people who have recognized their sins fail to receive forgiveness for them. The first is that they fail to repent -- but the second is that they fail to forgive.  Jesus is very explicit about this in Matthew 6:14 and 15. He says, "For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."  Is there someone I need to forgive today?  We must not let what others have done destroy our lives.  We can't be forgiven unless we forgive. We must release our bitterness if we are to be able to allow God to do His healing work in our lives.