Reading I: Isaiah 52:7-10
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
Reading II: Hebrews 1:1-6
Gospel: John 1:1-18
During the Christmas vigil and dawn liturgies, we have the biblical narrative accounts of the birth of Jesus, while for the Mass of the Day, our scriptures invite us to take a step back and reflect more upon the deeper meaning of Christmas.
The Gospel passage of the familiar Prologue of John opens with the WORD being with God at the beginning and “all things came to be through the WORD, and …. what came to be through him was life” (Jn 1:3a, 4a). Christmas is about the WORD becoming incarnate in the world then and the on-going outpouring of God’s LIFE into our lives and into all of creation. And “this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn. 1:4b-5). We all know darkness in its many forms and degrees of intensity—sickness and death; prejudice and racism; violence and injustice; disappointment and betrayal, pain and loss in its multiplicity of ways. And yet, at Christmas we are reminded that the LIGHT of Jesus and God can not be overcome by any darkness. The event and celebration of Christmas does not promise the end of darkness. The period of time around the Christ’s birth included an evil political ruler, the slaughter of innocent children, and a refugee flight into Egypt. But “the light shines in the darkness” (Jn 1:5a).
I remember celebrating Christmas forty-six years ago in a village parish in Papua New Guinea. They did not have electricity, television, or commercialism associated with the lights and glitter of Christmas in other parts of the world. The theme of the Christmas Eve liturgy was on reconciliation—on how God had reconciled humanity and the world to Godself through the gift of God’s son, and God was calling humanity to reconcile themselves to God and all peoples. During the liturgy, they used the central symbol from a cultural reconciliation ritual they performed every seven years to establish right relationships among families, clans, villages and traditional enemies. They recalled that the WORD was “the light of the [entire] human race” (Jn 1:4b) and we are to be children of the LIGHT and RECONCILIATION.
Other Christmas Sunday readings today describe the wonder of God’s LIGHT and LIFE in terms of “announcing peace, bearing good news” (Isaiah 52:7a), and “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God” (Psalms 98:3c). God’s grace is offered to the ends of the earth, including the villages of Papua New Guinea.
God’ gift of reconciliation, which we remember and celebrate at Christmas is Jesus. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). As God’s Word became flesh and blood, we are reminded at Christmas that we are to continue that incarnation by allowing the LIFE and LIGHT of God to become flesh and blood in and through us more fully. While we will face darkness, we are called to do so with hope as witnesses to God’s LIGHT and “the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5b).