CHRISTMAS HOMILY – MASS AT DAWN
THEME: FINAL CHRISTMAS
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong
1. The First Noel. A man sent his friend a cryptic Christmas ecard. It said: A B C D E F G H I J K M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z. The recipient puzzled over it, finally gave up and texted asking for an explanation. His friend responded, “No L.” (Noel). Today we celebrate the 1st Noel. The Gospel reading (Lk 2:15-20) recounts the event. A popular Christmas carol puts these same events into song. Let’s sing its first verse. The first Noel the angel did say, Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay; In fields where they lay, keeping their sheep, On a cold winter’s night that was so deep: Refrain: Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.
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2. Last Noel. How about my last Noel? My last Christmas? How about my final Christmas? The reason for Christmas is partly to make everyone’s final Christmas in this world a thing of joy. Thanks to the first Christmas, our final Christmas will still be a happy one, since it will signal each person’s birth into eternity. We rejoice at the birth of the Messiah. He came to save us. He saves us through His victory over death, turning death into a birth, a new birth, a birth into eternity, an eternity of perpetual happiness and peace. Yes, sisters and brothers, the reason for Christmas is human salvation. Christ came to save all human beings. Today’s first reading (Is 62:11-12) affirms Christ’s mission as Savior of the world: “See, the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth…your savior comes!” (v.62). Today’s responsorial psalm echoes the same message of universality: “The heavens proclaim his justice, and all peoples see his glory.” (Ps 97:6). For any person alive now or who has ever lived, no gift is greater than the gift of eternal salvation. That is precisely the complete package that the infant of Bethlehem brought to humanity. Of course, He does provide daily bread, recovery from sickness, temporary joys of owning homes, job security and all that. But He came to offer us more than these, namely, the ultimate gift of eternal salvation, something completely beyond our means. Today’s 2nd reading emphasizes salvation as God’s gift: “When the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, He saved us …through Jesus Christ our savior….” (Titus 3:4-7). Of course, God brought other creatures to cooperate in His plan of salvation. Angels did their part as we heard in today’s Gospel reading (Lk 2:15-20). Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the people of Bethlehem, Magi from the East, and so on, played amazing roles in the nativity of the Messiah.
3. Receiving Salvation. How then do we receive this salvation that the infant of Bethlehem brought? What happens to those men and women who lived before Christmas? What happens to all those who have never heard the Gospel of Christ even now? What about adherents of non-Christian religions? These questions help unravel some of the beauty and mysteries of Christmas. Precisely because the Son of God, by His incarnation, took up human nature in addition to His Divine nature, then all human beings who have ever existed and who will ever exist, now have a connection with Christ the Savior. Precisely because the impediment to eternal life is sin, salvation is therefore salvation from our sins and the consequences of sin. The savior of mankind was born in order to die and resurrect on behalf of all human beings, thereby gaining for all the gift of salvation. Thus, all human beings are implicitly connected with Christ and can share in the saving effects of His birth, teachings, miracles, death, resurrection, ascension to Heaven, sending of the Holy Spirit to form the Church, the Sacraments through which He gives us graces to live according to His will, His final coming and judgement of the world. It is an ontological connection. Just as no creature is outside God’s providence as Creator, no human being is outside the reach of Jesus Christ as Savior of mankind. Circumstances of place and time are not used against anyone. In other words, no one misses salvation except through their own fault, just as Scripture says (Mk 16: 16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned”) and just as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 846-848) explains: “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation. (CCC 847, Lumen Gentium 16). And all this because of this infant of Bethlehem.
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