A reading from the prophecy of Isaiah
Isaiah spoke about someone coming who “brings glad tidings, announcing peace, bearing good news.” The Church chooses this reading for Christmas day because we believe that the birth of Jesus fulfills this promise.
We do not live in a peaceful world, and each day brings headlines with bad news, sometimes terrifying news. There is plenty of bad news to go around, but there is also so much good news, so many people doing good for their neighbors, for their country, for their world. There are individuals and organizations working to reduce the number of poor and hungry people in the world, even though there are still far too many. There are more peaceful countries in the world in this century, even though there is still horrible violence in Ukraine and elsewhere. There is less crime, violence, poverty, unemployment, and hunger in our own country than there was 10 years ago, even though we still have a long way to go to be the just and peaceful people of our hopes and dreams.
The point is that the promise of Jesus does not work like magic. It is a gift of peace and good news offered to each of us that we can accept or reject. On the birthday of our Savior, let us accept this amazing gift on a deeper level than ever before. Let us remember that the power of his love that lives in our hearts is a more powerful force than all the negative forces that exist. We can live in his love despite all the unloving that we experience in our world, all this from a little baby whose birth we celebrate today.
(Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6}
“All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” Many have seen, but not all have believed. Let us pray that today more hearts will be opened to the transforming power of God.
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews
The author writes, “In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”
Throughout history, God has spoken to his people in many ways: through nature, through various religious traditions, and especially through the Jewish people and their prophets. God continues to speak through all those means today, but the fullness of God’s message and presence is in Jesus.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
This is the famous prologue to John’s Gospel, added on for an important reason. It starts with an amazing statement: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So, who is this “Word”? The answer is clear: “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.”
The author wants to be clear that this is Jesus. Jesus is equal to God, because Jesus is God who came among us in the form of a human being. For all the centuries before, God spoke especially through the Jewish people. That communication does not and will not ever end, but now there is a direct communication to the whole world in the presence of Jesus. Even though Jesus died and ascended into Heaven two thousand years ago, he sent us the divine Presence in the form of the Holy Spirit who lives within each of us. So, this Christmas Day and all days, if we want to experience the presence of God and live with true peace and good news, we need to listen to his Spirit within us and in the community of our Church.
Peace and good news to all on this Christmas day and always!
Painting: Adoration of the Shepherds, Gerard van Honthorst, Pomeranian State Museum. Greifswald, Germany. Public Domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.