DECEMBER 25, 2013 - CHRISTMAS DAY

ISAIAH 52: 7-10; HEBREWS 1:-1-10; JOHN 1:1-18

GOD HAS SPOKEN TO US IN HIS SON.  These words of the Epistle to the Hebrews give the fuller, hidden meaning of the preaching of the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years earlier that we hear in the proclamation announced in the first of today's readings.   The message is expressed in exuberant language. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the bearer of glad tidings . . . announcing salvation and saying to Zion: 'Your God is king.' The Septuagint version is even more poetic. Possibly, this Greek translation may preserve Isaiah's original version.   It reads as follows: "my people shall know my name in that day for I am He that speaks.  I am present as a season of beauty on the mountains, as the feet of one preaching a gospel of peace, as one announcing Good News." The prophet adds that "All the ends of the earth will behold the salvation of our God. . . . for eyes shall look to eyes when the Lord shall have mercy on Zion."  This prophesy anticipates today's feast when God's promised redeemer appears as a human infant.

In us today this prophecy continues to be fulfilled for we are included among those privileged to, hear these glad tidings and to believe in their message.   This Christmas Feast celebrates the realization of the promise that for centuries gave hope to God's chosen people, a hope that gave strength to trust that God would prove faithful to his word.  Such hope was the basis of the moral courage required to remain confident in faith when the majority turned away, choosing to go with the popular, politically correct crowd.  The minority, as we see in the smaller group of Jeremiah with his faithful disciples, seemed to be serving a lost cause when they refused to accept the policies of the king and high priests.  But it was they who, through bearing up under the burden of suffering and unpopularity, kept the true tradition of God's revelation alive.

This same process of opposition and falling away through yielding to the allure and pressures of secular ambition, has repeatedly marked the history of God's people from the times of the early prophets.  We today experience it in our own society so that our bishops are suing the government for its legislation that violates religious conscience.  Such oppressive violence reached its most dramatic form in the treatment of Jesus and the apostolic and early Church.  The joy of Christ's birth, profound and pure as it was in the holy Family, was in a few weeks, confronted with a somber prospect when Simeon's prophecy was to pierce the heart of the Lord's mother, and of Joseph as well, with the sharp pains of sorrow, without, however, eliminating the deeper joy altogether.  We, along with all true disciples, are reminded at this Christmas mass that makes present sacramentally the passion and resurrection of Jesus and that commemorates the joy of the Son of God's birth among us and for us.

As Saint John announces in the Gospel reading we have just heard, this infant born today shares his life with us at this altar.  As John expresses it:"What came to be through him was life and this life is the light of the human race." This is the great Christmas gift for which we here thank God our Father at this Eucharistic altar.



Abbot John Eudes Bamberger