CHRISTMAS VIGIL: CHRIST THE NEW CREATION
THEME: “Tomorrow the wickedness of the earth will be destroyed: the Saviour of the world will rule over us.”
BY: FR. KARABI PAUL
Chapters 60-62 of Isaiah promise great things to the people of Jerusalem and record the rejoicing that they will experience upon the fulfillment of those promises. These chapters form a joyful unit. A number of themes, such as light, righteousness, salvation, and joy are repeated throughout.
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The former exiles have returned to Jerusalem after a lengthy exile that challenged their faith in Yahweh. Cyrus of Persia has defeated the Babylonians and instituted a new policy. Instead of taking Jewish exiles, Cyrus allows them to return to Jerusalem and even provides funds to finance the rebuilding of the temple.
However, upon their return, the former exiles find that Yahweh, who made possible their return, has not seen fit to make their task easy. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the restoration of Jerusalem and the temple. The returned exiles experienced opposition from local people and the project ground to a halt (Ezra 4; Nehemiah 4-5).
These new obstacles created a crisis of faith, in much the same way as the exile did. Yes, Yahweh has made it possible for them to escape their bondage in Babylonia, just as Yahweh earlier made it possible for their ancestors to escape slavery in Egypt. The people, in their exile, have accused God of hiding himself (45:15) and keeping silent (64:12; 42:14; 57:11; 65:6). They felt abandoned by God as they suffered through an exile that seemed to go on forever. That exile did, in fact, span nearly fifty years, so it is easy to see how they would feel that God had kept silence when he might have spoken a word of redemption to free them.
However, their exile had a purpose, and Yahweh had to wait for that purpose to be accomplished. Now that has been done and Yahweh promises to vindicate his people, to clear them of blame, to justify them, to reestablish their good reputation among the peoples of the world. This vindication will be highly visible, like the sun at dawn or a burning torch.
Christian faith finds the fulfilment of 62 in Jesus, as both the Messiah who proclaimed and embodied God’s reign and the Suffering Servant who offered salvation to the world. The world without Jesus is completely dark. Hope will escape everyone without Him. His coming as a Saviour is the joy of humanity. Jesus comes with a new name that changes the previous names and identities of individuals associated with the world of darkness.
Names in the Bible are seen as expressing a person’s essential character, and a renaming reflects a significant change of character. Thus Abram becomes Abraham (Genesis 17:5) and Jacob becomes Israel (Genesis 32:28) and Simon becomes Peter (Matthew 16:18) and Saul becomes Paul (Acts 13:9).
Affirming this fulfilment, the Gospel passage (Matthew 1:1-25) highlights the genealogy of Jesus Christ. it begins with Abraham, the grand patriarch of Israel, and moves forward through the individual generations to its culmination in “Jesus who is called Messiah.” Forty names succeed each other in unbroken father-son relationships; the forty-first is Jesus, but His link to this chain of successive generations is ambiguous. The verb egennesen (“he generated”) is used 39 times to connect these father and son pairs, but not used to relate Jesus and Joseph. Instead Joseph is identified as “the husband of Mary,” and Mary is designated as the one “from whom Jesus who is called Messiah was born.” Four other women of different reputations have been included previously among the male descendants through whom the family line moves. With their bad reputation, Jesus sanctifies even the human lineage.
As the child of Mary, Jesus is a new creation generated by the holy Spirit. As the adopted son of Joseph, He is a descendant of David and Abraham. Although He represents two generations and wears two christological hats concurrently, He is one person and has one name, Jesus. His life manifests a direct correspondence between His activity and His name, between His person and His work. That is why His naming is so important.
In His Being, the entire creation will find reconciliation with God. All things will be renewed in Him. Christmas heralds this era of restoration. It is the beginning of a great light. We have to rejoice and spread same joy. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE. May God, through the merit of the birth of His Son, fill our lives and homes with happiness, joy and lasting peace through the same Christ Our Lord Amen. Happy Celebration
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