December 25, 2021, The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas - Year C)

22 December 2021

Vigil Mass
For ever I will sing the goodness of the Lord
Is 62:1-5; Ps 89; Acts 13:16-17,22-25; Mt 1:1-25

Mass during the Night
Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord
Is 9:1-6; Ps 96; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Mass at Dawn
The Lord is born for us
Is 62:11-12; Ps 97; Ti 3:4-7; Lk 2:15-20

Mass during the Day
All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God
Is 52:7-10; Ps 98; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18




“What is there to say? It’s Christmas!”, in this way a pastor began and finished preaching during Christmas Mass, all for the joy of the faithful who were used to long homilies from their priest! In this same way, we could instantly open and close our reflection for this Solemnity; because before the mystery of Christ’s birth; God made man; mystery of divine truth – unheard yet never fully fathomed – and before the feast of greatest joy for all men; every word used to comment or explain fails. There is nothing more profound to say than the simple affirmation: “It’s Christmas!”

Yes, a cry of joy like this would be enough, and then the quieting of all human speech so as to hear the divine voice on this most holy night – even for all of this most holy day, and the whole of Christmas. Today there is a great need to silence the heart and the mind, perhaps especially before the manger of the church, letting go of every other worldly concern (including the temptation to take a few souvenir photos of the manger!). Let us all, believers, enter into this mystical silence of a half an hour, so as to hear the voice of God who speaks to us: whether abundantly in the many readings and liturgical prayers in the four various masses of Christmas, or through the new-born child Jesus, who wants to whisper his message to each of us even today, to those who belong to Him in this world.

1. (The very first “word” of the newborn Jesus). As the second reading from the Mass of the day emphasizes, “God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son” (Heb 1:1-2). But in what way? Curiously but significantly, from the historical-existential point of view, the first “word” that Jesus uttered on earth was his crying, like all newborn children (so much so that this cry is called in Vietnamese tieng khoc chao doi, “the cry that greets life!”). And it is precisely in this birth-cry, so natural and apparently unimportant, that we are able to grasp a profound message on which we must dwell in the silence of wonder and adoration. The God made man spoke in the first moments of his coming to earth by weeping.

Beyond a spontaneous reaction of physical-biological laws (the newborn cries to begin to breathe), this was the cry of solidarity with all humanity and thus becomes an emblematic image of God’s incarnation. When He became flesh, He took upon Himself the whole human condition: weak, fragile, wounded by sin. In his initial cry we hear the groaning of humanity, indeed of all creation awaiting redemption. The Son of God, “the only-begotten from the Father before all ages,” was born in time: not to erase the human cry from existence, but to take it upon himself and to make it divine. Thus, from that moment on, Jesus will continue to weep when faced with the tragic and painful situations of the men and women of his time (and mystically of every generation), but He Himself will also proclaim blessed those who weep now, “for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4), specifically, by God and by the gentle presence of Emmanuel – “God with us.”

2. (The two-fold joy) In this way, the very first voice of Jesus weeping signals the beginning of a great joy as well, and this is true on two levels. First, on a natural-existential level, the cry of the newborn baby arouses in everyone the immense joy of a new life, beginning with the mother who forgets all the hardships of waiting and childbirth in that very moment. This is a universal human truth that Jesus himself will curiously affirms in his last speech to the disciples: “When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world” (Jn 16:21). This natural joy is behind the proclamation of the prophet Isaiah: “A child is born to us, a son is given to us” (Is 9:5), which refers to the joyful cry of a family at their child’s birth, as also attested in the Biblical-Jewish tradition (cf. Jer 20:15; Ps 113:9). All this is because the child’s arrival opens up the future for all, and ensures the continuity of life in both the family and society, regardless of condition or social status. It is a joy so human and so simple that it overcomes pain, challenges every adversity, and illuminates the darkness of the present. It is what Mary and Joseph surely experienced and transmitted to all those whom they met.

It is therefore necessary to recover this “earthly” joy of the birth of Jesus more than two thousand years ago, in order to be able to experience another, even greater joy that comes from faith. On a theological-spiritual level, we see in the newborn Jesus not only the gift of a new life and a guaranteed future, but also the concrete beginning of the fulfillment of God’s plan for humanity: He has now come, in flesh and blood to save us, to give us life in abundance: divine life. This is what the angel of God announced to the shepherds that night: “Behold, I proclaim to you a 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 2:10-11). This is a fundamental proclamation, proclaimed repeatedly every Christmas in the Gospel during Midnight Mass, because the mystery of the birth of Jesus the Savior for the joy of the salvation “for all the people” is actualized in a mystical and mysterious way. This “today” of the angelic proclamation refers not only to that one specific time in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, but also and above all, refers to what is still happening among us today: it lasts until the end of time. The Lord Jesus was born also in our “today”, and the sign to recognize him is the same one announced by the angel: “This will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:12). That is, a small, fragile, defenseless child who only knows how to cry in the face of adversity. They were waiting for the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and the Lamb of God has come (cf. Rev 5:5-6)! This is our joy of the close, tender, delicate God who wants to enter our lives on tiptoes, with all respect for our freedom, to accompany us to salvation: not with the signs of power, to repeat a beautiful formulation used by Pope Francis, but with the signs of love.

3. (The zeal of a life for God) The first cry of the child Jesus eloquently begins a life entirely dedicated to the mission received from God the Father. As we heard last Sunday from the Letter to the Hebrews, Christ, on entering the world, solemnly declared to God the Father: “Behold, I come to do your will.” This mystical voice of Christ, full of zeal and determination for a special mission for God and for the salvation of humanity, finds its even stronger and more moving expression in the words of the Prophet Isaiah, which the first reading of the Vigil Mass presents again for our hearing: “For Zion’s sake I will not be silent, / for Jerusalem’s sake I will not keep still, / until her vindication shines forth like the dawn / and her salvation like a burning torch” (Is 62:1-2).

For as long as there is still weeping in some corner of the Earth, Jesus still comes to weep with those who weep and to bring all to the moment of final salvation when God will wipe away every tear. The divine mission continues, and He zealously carries it out in and with His life, inviting his disciples to do the same with and in their own lives: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). Therefore, Isaiah’s praise of the messenger who proclaims God’s salvation to humanity remains ever relevant, as the first reading from the Mass of Christmas Day reminds us: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one bringing good news, announcing peace, bearing good news, announcing salvation” (Is 52:7).

So, today, who will be the angel of God, that divine messenger, announcing the Good News of the birth of Christ the Savior? Who will announce God’s message to today’s “shepherds” – those who are outside the cities and far from the modern lights, and who, perhaps, may not expect the communication of such an honor, and to be called to know the joy in and of Christ? Who will be the missionary who continues Christ’s zeal for the salvation of all? I leave the answer to You who read these lines. I say nothing more. In the end, what can I say? It’s Christmas!


Useful insights:

“God made himself flesh. And when we say this, in the Creed, on Christmas Day, on the day of the Annunciation, we kneel to worship this mystery of the incarnation. God made himself flesh and blood; he lowered himself to the point of becoming a man like us. He humbled himself to the extent of burdening himself with our sufferings and sin, and therefore he asks us to seek him not outside of life and history, but in relationship with Christ and with our brothers and sisters. Seeking him in life, in history, in our daily life. And this, brothers and sisters, is the road to the encounter with God: the relationship with Christ and our brothers and sisters.” (Pope Francis, Angelus Saint Peter’s Square, 22 August 2021)


“God’s ways are astonishing, for it seems impossible that he should forsake his glory to become a man like us. To our astonishment, we see God acting exactly as we do: he sleeps, takes milk from his mother, cries and plays like every other child! As always, God baffles us. He is unpredictable, constantly doing what we least expect. The nativity scene shows God as he came into our world, but it also makes us reflect on how our life is part of God’s own life. It invites us to become his disciples if we want to attain ultimate meaning in life.” (Pope Francis, Apostolic Letter on the Meaning and Importance of the Nativity Scene, Admirabile Signum, n. 8)


“With a heart still warmed by the sweet affections that the Christmas Feasts inspire in every priestly heart […], my thoughts went to you [the missionaries], who are the Ambassadors, the Angels destined by God to bring the Good News to so many poor souls; to you to whom Christmas has certainly kindled in your heart an even more lively desire to give birth to Jesus in souls, in all the souls entrusted to you.” (P. Manna, Virtù Apostoliche, Bologna 1997, p. 291)


“Christmas is a feast of light. It is commonly said that the celebration of the Lord’s birth was established in late December to give a Christian meaning to the pagan feast of Sol invictus. This may or may not be so, as already in the first part of the third century Tertullian writes that Christ was conceived on March 25th, which, in some calendars, marked the first day of the year. Thus it may be that the Christmas feast was calculated from that date. In any case, beginning in the fourth century many Fathers recognized the symbolic value of the fact that for them the days grew longer after the feast of the Nativity. […] The readings and prayers for the various Christmas liturgies underscore the theme of the true Light who comes to us in Jesus Christ.” (Homiletic Directory, n. 111)