Christmas: Mass During the Day, 25 December, 2021, Year C: Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
We don’t know the actual date or even the season of Christ’s birth because he was born into a world that wasted little memory on such matters. The early church chose a symbolic date to celebrate the Lord’s Nativity in the darkest days of the year in the northern hemisphere. Just as the days begin to grow longer we celebrate him who is the life and the light of the human race, the light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
Of course, as Christianity spread around the world, this Eurocentric perspective generated its incongruities. Our Brother Joseph told me about celebrating Christmas in Viet Nam as a child, singing French carols about the Infant born on that “cold, cold night,” in their tropical climate.
So many of our Christmas customs are incongruous, driving us further and further from the mystery we celebrate by our forced good cheer, insulating ourselves from the delicate balance of our lives, tottering between light and darkness, life and death. Too often we try to conjure a lovely illusion of an existence needing no hope, no commitment, no response to a call beyond our limits.
So I was very struck by a Christmas letter I received from an older couple I’ve come to know well. Happily married for sixty years, both dedicated to their Gospel-driven ministries, the wife’s health is failing and after several years of self-sacrificing care, there are no more treatment options. The letter closes:
Our faith, especially at Christmas time, is strengthened again as we celebrate
the hope that comes with the birth of the Christ Child. We know that the future
for us continues to be united in love and faith. And we clearly know that “nothing
can separate us from the love of Christ”—not even death.
That message certainly drives me closer to the heart of what we could celebrate today than any of the glittery scripted cheer that dominates these days. If it is that faith and hope, born within us with the birth of Jesus, then we have cause for gratitude. Then there’s reason to halt our normal pace and set aside a day to marvel at how God comes to meet us in all our fragility.
The great mystery, hidden for ages and generations, has now been revealed.