HOMILY FOR CHRISTMAS MASS 2014.
In every Mass a Christmas prayer is recited by the priest. It is the prayer which sums up the Christmas message and recognises the history and the mystery which we celebrate. The prayer is said quietly by the priest as he puts the water into the wine in the chalice at the offertory of the Mass. The prayer runs as follows: By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. In that short prayer you have on the one hand, God becoming one of us and simply the mystery that we as a result share God’s life.
As we reflect on that Christmas prayer when the water is being added to the wine we recognise that it would be impossible to separate water from wine once they mingle, so once God became one of us God is now intent on staying with us, try as we may we cannot behave independently of him. Furthermore since becoming one of us God cares how men and women live. This is what we celebrate at Christmas, not just an event in history over 2000 years ago but also a mystery. God and ourselves are destined to stay close to each other and travel together. As the Preface of the Mass reminds us, “in the wonder of the incarnation Jesus has brought to the eyes of faith a new and radiant vision of God’s glory. Today a new light has dawned upon the world, God has become one with the human race and the human race has become one with God”.
At the First Christmas people had lived under the boot of oppression, exploitation and humiliation. Against a background of disillusionment we situate the birth of Jesus in the most unlikely situation, in a manger in Bethlehem.
The contrast then was between vain expectations provided by political leaders at the time on the one hand and true hope, heralded by the birth of Jesus on the other. This Christmas we may find ourselves battered and bruised in different ways. Some of us may be embroiled in a conflict and feel drained as a result. Others may have suffered the loss of a loved one and are broken hearted. For others their plans and dreams may be shattered and they feel helpless. Wherever and however we find ourselves this Christmas, the words addressed to the Shepherds around Bethlehem that first Christmas night are now addressed to us: “Do not be afraid, listen, I bring you news of great joy. Today a Saviour has been born to you”. Is it any wonder then that Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus would be an occasion for all of us to celebrate. And so people travel huge distances to come home, phone calls, Skype, texts unite families across the globe.
The story of Christmas speaks to the child born within all of us. That child is Jesus in whose likeness we are moulded and who is the reason for the hope that we have in our hearts. Christmas invites us take the child with us, to welcome him into our hearts and homes. Jesus is the sure proof that God loves us and the great truth of Christmas is that no matter what happens to us, God’s love is never in doubt. So this Christmas let us celebrate that love.