CHRISTMAS MESSAGE 2016

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

1.         The Christmas message has been told in many ways. The most popular of them has been given to us by St. Luke. It’s the Gospel story we hear each year at the midnight mass. Luke begins by giving us two details about Jesus’ birth: He was born when the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, ruled the world; and, He was born in a stable on a hillside outside the town of Bethlehem, because there was no room for Mary and Joseph in the town.

Luke therefore tells us the time and the place where Jesus was born. He did this because he wanted to let us know that the coming of the Son of God on earth was firmly rooted in our world history. And it all happened in the silence of a cold night. An Angel of the Lord appeared to some shepherds to tell them: ‘I bring you news of great joy; today in the town of David (Bethlehem) a Saviour has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord.’ With that, the shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem. There they found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in a manger. It was exactly as they had been told by the Angel. Then they went back to their flocks glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. God chose a few shepherds to be responsible to make known the good news about the birth of our Saviour. Wasn’t there something strange how God chose a few poor shepherds to announce the birth of the long-awaited Saviour? How did Luke come to know this story? Most probably he would have learnt it from Mary herself.

2.         St John gives us a very different account about the Jesus of Nazareth whom he first met while fishing at the Lake of Galilee. He doesn’t give us any details about when or where Jesus was born. Years and years later, after Jesus had returned to his Father in Heaven, John was sent into exile in a small island off the coast of Greece because he was preaching the Risen Lord. There he had plenty of time to look back and think about all his experiences during the three years of Jesus’ public life. Then one day, he was inspired to put on record ‘something’ very special about this child that was born in Bethlehem.

John opened the message of his First Letter in this way: ‘Something we have heard and seen with our eyes, which we have watched and touched with our hands, the Word of Life. And that Life was made visible; we saw it and we are giving our testimony…so that you too may be in union with us, as we are in union with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ’ (1 John, 1…).

3.         These words are difficult for us to ‘understand’. John was trying to introduce the first Christians into one of the greatest mysteries of our faith by using these words. We can never understand a mystery. Remember - John was one of the twelve apostles; but he was more than that. He was also one of the special three chosen by Jesus (Peter, James and John) when he witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus on Mount Thabor. John was also known as the ‘beloved disciple’. As such, he had a special closeness or affection with Jesus among the twelve. And so, in the solitude of his surroundings on the island where he lived, he must have pondered over and over again his memories as a first hand witness to the life and the Mystery of this man Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, the child born on that first Christmas night was both the Son of God and the Son of Mary. ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’. God became man; he took on our human weaknesses (flesh) while still remaining a divine person.

4.         St. Francis of Assisi was also inspired to tell us about the Christmas story. And he did so without using any words at all!! He decided to build or to create a very simple ‘crib’ – something that would be similar to the cave and the manger in which Jesus was born. Francis often taught his companions: ‘preach the Good News at all times and, if necessary, only use words’! In other words, example is more powerful than preaching.

And so, he assembled the first crib on Christmas night in the year 1223, in a cave on the side of a mountain in Italy. A large crowd of local people came to take part in the ceremony with the first crib. Its only occupants were an image of the Christ child lying in a manger of straw and two live animals (an ox and a donkey).

The purpose of the crib was to help the people to imagine the scene of Jesus’ birth on that first Christmas. And his idea (or experiment) touched the hearts and minds of the farmers and shepherds who lived in the nearby village of Greccio.

One of St. Francis’ companions wrote a very brief account of his experiences of that night: Simplicity was honoured; Poverty was exalted; Humility was praised’.

The mystery of the Incarnation became something tangible from that first Christmas crib in a very poor rural region of Italy.

5.         The making of a crib in our Churches and homes at Christmas has spread all over the world following the example of St. Francis. Christmas has always been a time of joy. We sing the carols with great joy: Joy to the World; Hark the Herald Angels sing; Once in Royal David’s city. Heaven is joined to earth; and earth to Heaven. The son of Mary, a helpless child, is also the Son of God. However, we must also ‘taste’ the real joy in our hearts as we look at that tiny figure of the Christ child and gaze in wonder at the mystery that confronts us: ‘Simplicity has been honoured; Poverty has been exalted; Humility has been praised’. That is why we cry out with the Angels: Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among men of goodwill.

Peace, yes peace – so little around the world – and in our own country.

Yalla, sunyu Borom, nyungi la gerem ngir sa dom Yesu Krista, ki di fengyal sa har kanam chi nyun.

You, Yalla Borom yermande, mi nyu wotu sasu nyu sone te new dole.  Sunyu reyrey, nga ut nyu be gis nyu, te fehal sunyu hol.

Nanyu Yesu Bur I jama ji dimali, ndah nyu sahal jama chi sunyu bir hol, chi bir sunyu njobot, chi sunyu reu ak chi bir aduna si sepa.

AMEN.