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!”

 

1st Sunday of Advent A

“Stay awake, that you may be prepared.”

Today we begin our yearly pilgrimage through the events of our history of salvation starting with the preparation for the birthday celebration of Jesus and ending with the reflection on his glorious “second coming” as judge at the end of the world. We are entering the Advent season. Advent means coming. We are invited to meditate on Jesus’ first coming in history as a baby in Bethlehem, his daily coming into our lives in mystery through the Sacraments, through the Bible and through the worshipping community and finally his Second Coming at the end of the world to reward the just and to punish the wicked. We see the traditional signs of Advent in our Church: violet vestments and hangings, dried flowers or plain green plants and the Advent wreath. These signs remind us that we must prepare for the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives, enabling him to radiate his love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness around us. 

Today’s Gospel Reading tells us to keep awake because we do not know on what day and at what time the Lord is coming. At the same time the Gospel tells us of the certainty of his coming into the world. The question to which this passage is responding to is: when and at what time this parusia or second coming of the Son of man is to take place. In the early days of the church, Christianity had raised the expectation that the Son of Man would return soon. Matthew in his gospel clearly reaffirms the fact that the Son of man will return. Secondly, he stresses the uncertainty of the exact time of his coming. This leads to the basic stance a Christian should have in the face of such uncertainty. Every Christian must live in a constant state of watchfulness. Several examples are given which stress the unexpectedness of an on-coming crisis. The first is the situation that surrounded Noah’s day before the flood. No one was prepared because no one was aware that a crisis was at hand. He says that in those days leading right up to the Flood, people were eating, drinking, taking wives, taking husbands. They suspected absolutely nothing and suddenly they were swept away. Only Noah, his family and the animals they took into the Ark survived. That is how suddenly the Lord will appear and that is why Christians have to be constantly watchful. The passage gives the warning of division, separation and sorrow. Those who are prepared for his coming will be able to enter into his kingdom. Two people might be doing exactly the same thing, but the one who is prepared will be taken up while the other who is not prepared will be left behind.

The Second Reading taken from the Letter of Paul to the Romans reminds us that salvation is nearer to us now. No matter how we look at it, each day is a day closer to the day when we will come face to face with the Lord Jesus. He calls on the Christians to wake up from their slumber because the day salvation is closer than they realize. Paul tells them to stir up and be ready for the coming of the Lord as Christ will come to judge the world and to gather his elect for their final reward. St. Paul reminds them of the fact that the end will be sudden and will be at an unexpected moment. So, he advices them to lay aside the works of darkness and put on those armor of light which is Christ himself. He tells them to live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, they are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. When they were baptized, they were quite a distance away from their encounter with God. But now he is close at hand and they can clearly perceive him. In other words, they are to walk in Christ-likeness in order to inherit the Kingdom of God that awaits those who persevere in their living faith until the end. United to Christ they will be able to live in the daylight of holiness.

When did you last sharpen your life? There was this very strong woodcutter who asked for a job with a timber merchant and got it. The wages the timber merchant paid were really good and so were the work conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day the woodcutter brought 18 trees. "Congratulations' the boss said "go on that way." Very motivated by the words of the boss, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could only bring 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder but brought only 10 trees. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. "I must be losing my strength," the woodcutter thought. He went to the boss and apologized, saying he could not understand what was going on. "When was the last time you sharpened your axe? The boss asked. "Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut trees." - We may have been busy with so many things, we may have neglected our spiritual life. Like the axe that needs sharpening, we also need to sharpen our spirit. Let us sharpen our spirit this Advent by becoming more loving, more prayerful, more compassionate, more generous and more faithful. Life is not about finding yourself! Life is about recreating yourself! Advent is God's marvelous gift to all of us. Let this season unfold slowly and nicely.