We come to the joyful goal of our advent renewal, this glorious night of the Lord. Angels sing to us peace on earth, good will to men. That peace and love is what we should practice at Christmas and throughout the year. Lets confess any ways we fail in this..
“Feed the world, let them know its Christmas” the song says. It was only a pop song but it got the message of Christmas. As did the hymn: “Joy to the world the Lord is nigh, let earth proclaim its king”. Certainly the event we celebrate tonight in a blaze of light, God among us as a baby, calls us from darkness and evil to freedom and light, to universal charity and saving faith. Hymns like the 12 days of Christmas echo that message, however inadequately. It lists the gifts given by the true love to his beloved. The true love is God and we are the beloved and all other gifts we receive at Christmas pale in comparison to His gift of Christ. As the song says: “all across the land dawns a brand new morn, this comes to pass when a child is born”. Boney M’s smash hit “Mary’s Boy Child” puts it even more powerfully: “Man will live forever more because of Christmas day”. For the bundle cradled in Mary’s arms in a stable far away is more than “Jingle Bells”, a booze-up or shopping til we drop. Its God’s gift of his son to us. His message of peace and love is lost if it doesn’t soften hard hearts, stop war, and feed the world.
We’re reminded as we gather in a blaze of Christmas light in a decorated church with angelic choirs singing, that we must make such Christian values real in our world. For real goal of his coming is a better, freer, kinder and more equal world. Glittering tinsel and tree lights are vain if they don’t recall us to brotherly and sisterly love. John Lennon, in a famous song, rightly asked the question of a violent world caught in the Vietnam and cold war: “do they know its Christmas time atall”. For amid the tinsel we can miss the point: an end to war, as the Band-aid song says, feeding the world, raising all people up to salvation in Christ, people walking hand in hand as God’s children: black, white, yellow, red in a world where all have an equal share in earth’s riches. Thats the Christmas dream.
Sadly the fallen world’s Satanic forces still leads us down other paths. Ruthless forces of global power and finance dictate an unequal world. And forces of international power lust, fuel endless conflicts. We saw recently the death of Kim Jung IL in Marxist North Korea, a state locked in a godless totalitarian nightmare. It reminds us of other secular dictators of our age – leaders who replaced God and pursued power regardlss of human life or divine justice. The one-party state, the secular ideology, militarisation – Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot. Mao, Saddam Hussain, Ghadaffi, Assad – the list is endless. Kim Jung puts his countries resources into nuclear weapons while people starve. And Capitalist imperialism is no better, still committing crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and secretly ruling us as Wikileaks show; in Ireland taking from old-age penshioners to give to global banks.
That’s the other side of the coin, the world still to be redeemed, out of tune with God and his baby Christ. Lets not get sucked into that godless pit. Its God’s bright innocent world in Christ that we should embrace this night. Its the gentle one born in a stable and crucified by the world that we should follow. Its his needy children everywhere we should serve not the self-serving world of which Satan is lord. For greed fades to dust and ashes at last, but the Christ child held in Mary’s arms, is lord of love, peace, happiness, goodness and grace for the happiness of all in this world and forever and ever, amen. So as God’s own gathered to adore the baby jesus, let profess our faith in Him..
Prayers of the faithful
And as we gather in this holy night with angels singing for us, lets pray with confidence to the loving God who sent us Jesus.
For the church in the world, in the light of this glorious birth may it inspire the whole world to come to the Lord’s cradle and forge liberty, equality, peace and salvation as he desires…
For civil leaders that this holy time may inspire them to lead the people with justice, integrity and wisdom..
For our youth that they may bring to Christ this Christmas and throughout the year their total love and devotion; that those who have wandered from the faith may come back to the arms of the Saviour and his holy church to find true peace..
For ourselves that we may bring a harmony, faith and love to our homes this Christmas and that the spiritual riches of the season may continue into a grace-filled, happy and just new year..
For the sick, the aged, the lonely and the needy this Christmas, that through our love, care and practical help they may enjoy the good will of the season to the full..
For peace in our own country and throughout the world, that the spirit of the season may heal all our sad divisions..
For the dead that they may come to the peace of their heavenly home with the help of our prayers..
And we ask all these prayers through the Christ child, who came in answer to all our deepest needs, amen.
Some say why the Christmas fuss, but that’s a false puritan begrudgery. We should get all worked up at Christmas. For all is calm and bright as “God is with us”. The Word became flesh and material aspects of the feast – eating. drinking, parties are also vital. Separation of bodily and spiritual joy isn’t Christian. Mary gave Jesus his first kiss on behalf of us, and we can’t thank her enough for bringing him to us in the flesh. Lets make Him flesh our real love for all this Christmas..Hail Mary
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph B
Our Christmas celebrations are about family. The readings today echoe that. First we have God’s third commandment: “honor your Father and your Mother”. Then Paul gives parents and children sound advice, to practice mutual love, gentleness and respect. The Gospel gives us the model in this, the Holy Family. Lets confess ways we fail at Christmas to nurture family unity..
Last Christmas abused children and battered wives flooded helplines. Violence, lonliness and alcohol-abuse were major factors in these calls. Not a good ad for our family life, or our sense of what matters at Christmas, peace and good will. Given the scale of family breakdown in society, the picture can seem depressing. In this context is there any point in the today’s feast, the feast of the holy family. Certainly not if our image of Jesus Mary and Joseph is of a no-problem family. But nothing could be further from the truth. They were poor. After travelling the long road to Bethlehem, they were shut out of the inn. Jesus was born in a stable. They fled for there lives from Herod, across the desert with scant food and danger everywhere. Then they were refugees in a strange land, threatened, excluded, lonely. Nor is Luke’s account of the teenage Jesus free from the usual rebellion; when Mary & Joseph found him in the temple, he said: “did you not know I must be about my father’s business”. Yet Jesus submitted to them and grew in grace before God and men.
In effect this holy family survived all that the world threw at them and grew in love and togetherness. Jesus lived for 33 years and spent 90% of this eeking out a meagre living with Joseph and Mary in an obscure village in the middle of nowhere. Could God have affirmed the value of close family life more? For if that family had plenty of trials it drew them closer together rather than pushed them apart. Thats the message of the Holy Family feast. It is about the family who hangs in there, prays together, loves each other tenderly, stays together bonded by trials, who work at family life in the deep love of God and each other. For real love is a deep decision to go on loving no matter what.
Sure this is more difficult today, but it is still very doable. A huge number of families are still getting it right by the grace of God, remaining true to Christian principles of deep love, unity, faithfulness and non-violence. Sacrificing the pub and personal ambition to be together. Working for each other & their children in an atmosphere of affection, trust and peace. Its not easy building such a family, but the alternative is unthinkable. Traditional Family life isnt perfect but its better than any alternative that’s been tried. Without it we risk social disentegration, reversion to irresponsible selfish individualism. The ones who usually suffer most in this are the most precious people in society, the children. They need the love and security of a good father and mother who are together and there for them. They need a nurturing caring home so as to grow up “in age and grace before God and man” as Jesus did. The holy family were real. They stayed together, united by love, through all adversity. No less is expected of Christian parents today. They are to create loving caring homes so that children may grow in age and grace like Christ. For all else is dust but He is lord of faithful enduring love and care forever & ever…amen.
So as God’s people promoting in our homes the unity, mutual respect, love and gentle care that is our Christian calling, let us make our profession of faith..
Prayers of the faithful
For the church, which is the family of God, the true home of all people, that its Holy Father the Pope and all its motherly and fatherly leaders may nurture their large family with the gentle care, respect and infinite love of Christ..
For our civil leaders that promoting the welfare of families may be one of their main concerns, for the greater good of society..
For our young people that they may respect, love and obey their parents in all that’s good, and be faithful to their mother the church, so that they may come to the fullness of age and grace both in this world and the next..
For parents who are doing such a wonderful job in nurturing the children of the future, that God may bless, inspire and keep them faithful in this great work..
For all the sick members of our parish family, that God may bring them comfort and healing. Through our care for them may they know the care of God their Father and Mary their mother..
For the dead, especially those of our own families who are still with us in spirit in the communion of saints, and in our hearts, that through our continuing love, remembrance and prayers for them they may come to the fullness of eternal life..
We ask all these prayers through Christ who spent most of his life in a poor village family, amen.
I read recently a book by Scott Hahn, Rome Sweet Home. He was a presbyterian who became a Catholic. He used to spent 8 hours a day studying the Bible. From these studies he came to conclusion that the Catholic Church was the true one. For it alone had the image of the church as God’s family, and this is the image of the people of God throughout the Bible. The Catholic church with its Holy Father the Pope, its priestly fathers and reverent mothers, and its image of the church as a mother, most fully reflects the caring homely relationship between God and us. Lets appreciate that as we pray to our heavenly Mother..Hail Mary..