Homily for the feast of the Nativity  -  Year A

Mass in the night  -  Luke 2:1-14


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled.  This was the first enrollment, when Quirin'i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

"And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

"And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, «Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.»  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, «Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!»"



Homily:


"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled."

Today we celebrate the birth of the Savior of mankind:  Jesus, the Son of God incarnate!  This feast day was chosen by the Spirit of God to coincide with the day when light triumphs over darkness.  Indeed, for several days, usually from the 21st to the 24th of December, nights are of an equal length, but after December 25th, the length of the night gradually decreases, giving way to a longer and longer day.  It is the sign of the triumph of Godís Light over the darkness of sin!  Remember that the angel said to Joseph, before the birth of Jesus:  "She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Mt. 1:21)

If the material world is in concordance with the spiritual events of the coming of Godís Son, then the political world of the time of Jesus is also in concordance with his coming into the world.  It is in accordance with an express order from the Roman emperor of that time, Caesar Augustus, that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem.  Certainly the emperor didn't explicitly want Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, but his authority here represents that of Jesusís Father, and therefore this order from the emperor shows God's intentions.  Didn't Jesus say to Pilate, shortly before his death:  "You would have no power over me unless it had been given you from above." (John 19:11)

"And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."

If Joseph and Mary had remained in Nazareth, Jesus would have been born in a clean and suitable house, in a place that had been adequately prepared to receive him.  Instead, it was necessary for him to be born in a stable, probably in a cave, near Bethlehem!  What a Mystery!  It is the Mystery of obedience!  Yes!  Jesus came to earth in order to accomplish the will of his Father, and he did not hesitate to fulfill his mission, from the very day of his birth!  There was no place for him at the inn!  He comes into the world in order to save it, and the world doesn't want him!  "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (John 1:11)

Jesus is the king of the universe and of the entire world!  And yet, in accordance with the order of an earthly king, Caesar Augustus, whose empire encompassed all the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, Jesus had to be born in poverty and rejected by his people.  All of Jesus' life would follow this pattern.  Even though he entered Jerusalem in triumph on Palm Sunday, it was these same Jews who, having acclaimed him as king on that day, disowned him publicly on the Friday of his death, by choosing the emperor Caesar instead of their own king, the descendant of David, Jesus Christ:  "Pilate said to them, «Shall I crucify your King?»  The chief priests answered, «We have no king but Caesar.»" (John 19:15)

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, «Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!»"

Behold the court of the great king of the universe!  They are the angels of Heaven!  When the material world refuses to render glory to its Lord and Master, then it is beings of the spiritual world who come to serve him and glorify him!  Jesus received their help during his life, when he prayed, especially on the day before his Passion:  "«Father, if thou wilt remove this cup from me:  but then, not my will, but thine be done.»  And an angel appeared to him from heaven strengthening him." (Luke 22:42-43)  But it is especially at the time of his arrest that Jesus spoke of the angels who could have intervened on his behalf:  "Jesus said, «Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?»" (Mt. 26:52-54)

Christmas is a feast of joy!  The angel said so to the shepherds:  "I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."  But this joy is that of the Resurrection!  He whom we welcome within us today is the risen Christ, he who died and rose again for us!  There is no heavenly joy that is not the joy of the Resurrection:  our heavenly joy is that which we feel after having undergone the trails of the Cross with Christ!  May Mary, the Most Holy Mother of God, bring us the joy of Heaven!


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