Let the radiance of that glory
enlighten the lives
of those who celebrate his birth.
Reveal to all the world
the light no darkness can extinguish,
our Lord Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
in the splendour of eternal light,
God for ever and ever. Amen.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest,
as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
and all the garments rolled in blood
shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time onward and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
O sing a new song to the Lord,
sing to the Lord all the earth.
O sing to the Lord, bless his name. (R./)
Proclaim his help day by day,
tell among the nations his glory
and his wonders among all the peoples. (R./)
Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad,
let the sea and all within it thunder praise,
let the land and all it bears rejoice,
all the trees of the wood shout for joy
at the presence of the Lord for he comes,
he comes to rule the earth. (R./)
With justice he will rule the world,
he will judge the peoples with his truth. (R./)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see-I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours!"
Christmas cards feel a bit old-fashioned in our digital age. Apart from their conventional triteness, the problem is deciding who to send them to. In order to ensure you write to those who are likely to send you a card, the lines can get blurred and the list can expand beyond the bounds, along with the cost of the stamps. In the end, you find yourself including everybody who might possibly send you seasonal greetings. The two lists never quite match and there is a last minute rush to fill the gaps. But whatever the defects of the cards, the thought behind them is undeniably good. Also, they are a yearly exercise in handwriting, where otherwise we tend to use just a keyboard.
It is a pity that Christmas cards so rarely reflect an authentic message about what the birth of Christ means. What about a simple black and white line drawing of a street with a row of houses, with a few touches – a milk bottle outside the door, an open window with a fluttering curtain – indicating that the houses are lived in. In the centre would be a man knocking at a door. His head is turned towards the street, where a woman is waiting. The street should be recognisable to us all, as the very street where we live. The stranger knocking at the door of your home. ...: NO ROOM!
The major test for Christmas is easy and foolproof. When last did I/you last stretch out a helping hand to someone in need? open heart or home to somebody in want? Any unanswered knock on my door may be an ignoring of Christ. If HE is not born in my heart and in my home this Christmas, what happened in Bethlehem long ago has not really taken root in my heart.
Words are often a weak method of communication. However, we have to use words, and today's gospel is an attempt, in simple language, to describe what happened on that extraordinary day, so long ago. It speaks of Jesus being born, and of the second meeting of heaven and earth, on that same night, when the angels appeared to the shepherds. This was the beginning of a process that is still on-going, as I speak. It is an old story that is ever new.
"Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and always." With God there is no such thing as time. All of time is totally present to him right now. God's work among us is always in process, it never comes to an end. In God's eyes, Christmas is an everyday event, that involves Jesus knocking on the door of my heart, seeking admission. The God-dimension never changes, the offer is always there, the good news is delivered with greater consistency than the morning newspaper. What happens after that is totally dependent on whether I accept the offer, open the door, and make my heart available as a manger.
One important point: when the shepherds heard the message they said, "Let us go to Bethlehem and see it for ourselves." The life of the Christian is a journey of discovery. It involves coming to find out for myself the truth and the reality of what I had been told by my parents, teachers, or preachers in church. I have to cross that bridge. The gospel is in between two phrases. At the beginning, we are invited to "Come and see," and, at the end, we are instructed to "Go and tell."
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news, who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God.
Sing a new song to the Lord
for he has worked wonders.
His right hand and his holy arm
have brought salvation. (R./)
The Lord has made known his salvation;
has shown his justice to the nations.
He has remembered his truth and love
for the house of Israel. (R./)
All the ends of the earth
have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout to the Lord all the earth,
ring out your joy. (R./)
Sing psalms to the Lord with the harp,
with the sound of music.
With trumpets and the sound of the horn
acclaim the King, the Lord. (R./)
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you." Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son." And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John . He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth.
From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known.
At Christmas more than at any other time, there's a welcome on the mat. Many families have visitors home for Christmas; and we will surely be making a round of social calls, over the Christmas days. But among all the greetings and the welcoming of friends, there is one welcome of special depth and meaning.
For the people of the Old Testament, light and darkness held special significance. They tended to associate them often with virtue and wickedness in the community, and also with the day of the Lord's coming. Indeed, at Qumran on the Dead Sea shoreline, during the life-time of Jesus, light and darkness were seen as two opposing kingdoms, and the sun's victory over darkness was held to be a symbol of the triumph of faith over the blind pursuit of evil. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light." So begins the Bible account of the first creation, and when it was ended, "God saw all that he had made, and indeed it was very good."
This original goodness and justice was fragmented when our progenitors abused the freedom of will granted them by God, so that once again, as the prophet Isaiah says "darkness came to cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples." (Is 60:2), To dispel this darkness, a new creation was needed, and the ideal of goodness and perfection became a living reality, when the light of Christ came into the world. ."The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; for those who lived in a land of deep shadow a light has shone." (Is 9:2). For God, who had created humanity in his own image and likeness, had now identified with the human race, and by assuming the body of a human child, had come down among us.
The Christmas invitation is, Come to Jesus and feel welcome. No matter what what we.ve done, or how badly we may feel – he can help us become all that we.re meant to be: beloved sons, beloved daughters of God. Come to him… and yes, even if you feel that "churchy things" are not for you. "I don.t like organized religion" you mutter. OK, but Jesus want to open doors for you, not close them. To those accept him this Christmas day, he gives power to become children of God. It is he, our Lord Jesus Christ, who brings us here today. With his help we can make a new beginning as individuals, as family and as a parish. So let us say it again. Come to Jesus this Christmas Day. His mercy, from a heart aware of all human suffering, has no limit. To those who accept him he gives power to become children of God. Come to Jesus, and make this Christmas truly happy, in your heart of hearts.
For the people of the Old Testament, light and darkness were more than natural phenomena. They tended to associate them often with virtue and wickedness in the community, and also with the day of the Lord's coming. Indeed, at Qumran on the Dead Sea shoreline, during the life-time of Jesus, light and darkness were seen as two opposing kingdoms, and the sun's victory over darkness was held to be a symbol of the triumph of faith over the blind pursuit of evil. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light." That's how chapter one of the Bible begins to describe creation, and when it was ended, God saw all that he had made, and indeed it was very good.
But this original goodness and justice was to be shattered, because our first parents abused the freedom of will granted them by God, so that once again, as the prophet Isaiah says "darkness came to cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples." (Is 60:2), To dispel this darkness, a new creation was needed, and the ideal of goodness and perfection became a living reality, when the light of Christ came into the world. ."he people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; for those who lived in a land of deep shadow a light has shone." (Is 9:2). For God, who had created man in his own image and likeness, had now identified with the human race, and by assuming the body of a child in the image of man, had come down to become one of us.
It has become a tradition to associate snow with Christmas, and when it does come, shrouding everything with its white mantle, a stillness settles over the countryside, especially at night-time. That combination of darkness and stillness was the setting for the first Christmas. As the Book of Wisdom states, "When all things were in quiet silence, and the night was in the middle of her course, your almighty Word leaped down from heaven, from your royal throne." (Wis 18:14f). It was as if God was again saying , "Let there be light" - let the gloom and darkness, which to such an extent exemplify the fallen and corrupt nature of the human race, be lifted, ushering in a new age of glory to God and peace on earth among all its people. And so an angel of the Lord appeared to some humble shepherds tending their flocks in the enveloping darkness, and the brightness of the Lord shone round them. "Do not be afraid," the angel reassured them. ."Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."
We too must listen, listen in the stillness of our hearts, and, like the shepherds, we must hasten, and with eagerness draw near to Christ. We must search for Christ, hasten to him with eagerness, and in the quiet times of prayer understand anew our need for Christ. St Augustine held that prior to conceiving Christ in her womb, Mary first conceived him in her heart, by her faith. The Church, too, is the Mother of Christ in that, by obedience to the will of God, she brings Christ into being in the world. But we, its members, are the Church, and so in some sense we too can bring Christ to birth, by doing God's will, as we perceive it in our own lives.
Introduction: Let us bring our prayers to God, who has shown his salvation to the nations in the birth of Jesus.