Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) – Mass at Dawn
Today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Lk. 2:11)
Serving the Lord and His Church as a priest is a wonderful privilege. I am grateful the Lord and for the love of God’s people. It is a joy to enter the lives of parishioners, especially when young couples announce they are expecting a child or calls right after the birth to ask their priest to give the blessing for newborn. What a thoughtful gesture and I will never forget to accompany the people in prayers!
As we gather for the Mass at Dawn of Christmas, we should ask the question: who had the privilege to be among the first to hear the announcement as the first reading indicates: “your savior comes!” (Is 62:11)? Let us hear the ending of the Gospel of the Mass during Night:
She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord (Lk 2:8-11).
It is the shepherds of the region who first heard the great news: The Savior is born! Who were the shepherds? They were lowly, poor, and humble. The announcement of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds is in keeping with Luke’s theme that the lowly are singled out as the recipients of God’s favors and blessings (see Lk 1:48, 52). Pope Francis in his Admirabile Signum: On the Meaning and Importance of the Nativity Scene singled out the responses of the shepherds to whom the news of Christ’s birth was first delivered and their response is the beginning of the Gospel proclamation for this Mass at Dawn:
Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2:15). So the shepherds tell one another after the proclamation of the angels. A beautiful lesson emerges from these simple words. Unlike so many other people, busy about many things, the shepherds become the first to see the most essential thing of all: the gift of salvation. It is the humble and the poor who greet the event of the Incarnation. The shepherds respond to God who comes to meet us in the Infant Jesus by setting out to meet him with love, gratitude and awe. Thanks to Jesus, this encounter between God and his children gives birth to our religion and accounts for its unique beauty, so wonderfully evident in the nativity scene (Admirabile Signum, no. 5).
Pope Francis highlights what the Gospel of this Mass at Dawn said about the shepherds: They “went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger” (Lk 2:16). Let us highlight the word, “in haste.” The things that belong to God cannot be put on hold or be delayed. We must respond with all of our hearts. We must do “in haste” as the shepherds did.
The Church often speaks of Christmas “O Admirabile Commercium/ O Marvelous Exchange”: the mystery of the Incarnation is a wonderful exchange between divinity and humanity, namely the Eternal Word takes human nature and unites it to Himself through a personal union; and in becoming incarnate, the Word brings, in return, a share in His divinity. As the Prayer over the Offering for Mass at Dawn explains: “May our offerings be worthy, we pray, O Lord, of the mysteries of the Nativity this day, that, just as Christ was born a Man and also shown forth as God, so these earthy gifts may confer on us what is divine. Through Christ our Lord. R. Amen.”
This understanding of Christmas invites us to revisit the response of the shepherds as they come to Bethlehem “in haste.” “When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared” (Ti 3:4), let us “in haste” assume Godly ways. This is what we pray in the Collect: “Grant, we pray almighty God that, as we are bathed in the new radiance of your incarnate Word, the light of faith, which illumines of our minds, may also shine forth in our deeds. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son who lives and reigns with you and the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. R. Amen.”
Like the shepherds, hearing the announcement of Christ’s birth in this liturgy let us make haste to Bethlehem. I wish all a Merry Christmas.