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Merry Christmas!

· Fr Phil Paxton

To all,

Last Sunday our Gospel reading was Luke’s account of the Annunciation. Part of my reflection was that Mary put her trust in God, even though she didn’t understand all of what it meant to be the mother of the Messiah. The Gospel reading for the Vigil Mass last night was from Matthew, and there we heard Joseph willing to trust in God’s plan for him and Mary and Jesus. At the Midnight Mass we heard Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus and of the angels announcing Good News to the shepherds in the fields. The Gospel for the Mass at Dawn this morning takes up where that Gospel left off (Luke 2:15-20)

In that Gospel, the shepherds, having heard this incredible news from the angels, decide to go check it out, and see if they can find the sign of “an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” So they come to the stable, telling what they heard from the angels, and Luke writes, “And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

I find myself journeying with Mary through all these events, as she begins to understand more and more about the birth of the Messiah and what it means. One thing she learns is that this birth is the fulfillment of all the prophets speaking about the deliverance of her people, even to the point of traveling from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she’s on the verge of giving birth, for the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. And when she and Joseph get there, they can’t even find a comfortable place to stay!

Another thing she has learned is that this birth is not because of any “righteous deeds” that were done by human beings, as we hear from the second reading from Titus (3:4-7). God chose that the Son of God become one of us in order to save us!

A third thing she learns when these shepherds come in, is that this birth is not meant just for the powerful or the rich, but is meant especially for people like these shepherds; people like herself and Joseph; people who are considered of no account by the world.

When it comes to these shepherds, we need to remember that they were strangers to Mary and Joseph. They were in Bethlehem, not Nazareth. Mary learns that in this birth, that we don’t have to remain strangers anymore. Just because people may look differently, or speak differently, or believe differently, doesn’t mean that we have to remain isolated from others and refuse to listen to their stories. Jesus’ birth indicates God’s desire not to be estranged from us, and for us not to be estranged from each other!

And finally, since this happens at night, Mary learns that God gives us a light in the darkness. We know that there is so much suffering and pain today: from the pandemic and the shaky economy, with deep-seated divisions and threats of violence, with fears of losing one’s home or one’s job, or having lost these things already. These things do not show us that God has forsaken us! God is with us, in the sorrow and the grief and the pain and the anxiety and the stress, and all the rest! Like Mary and Joseph, we need to try to put our trust in God, and hang on to God’s love for us in Jesus Christ. Like the shepherds, we are called to testify to all the things we have seen and heard God do for us.

In the Church, today is not the end of the Christmas season, but the beginning. As Mary kept all these things in heart, maybe we should, too. Merry Christmas!

I welcome any comments or questions. Thanks for your time.

In the Christ born to us,

Phil, CP