BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong.


1. Christmas Movies. Out of 19 Classic Christmas Movies listed on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I managed to watch 2 as part of my Advent, namely, “Bells of St Mary” and “The 4th Wiseman”. In “Bells of St Mary”, who else likes the Christmas play rehearsed by the 1st graders? Sr Mary Benedict (Ingrid Bergman) takes Fr O’Malley (Bing Crosby) to see what Bobby and other 1st grade kids are doing. The small and endearing Mary and Joseph go from place to place asking for lodging. Each time, the inn keeper asks them, “Do you have any money?” They say, “No” and are sent away until someone finally offers the stable. Sr Benedict says, “Bobby made the play up. It’s a little not good.” At last, the “baby” (already a toddler) is “born,” and the children sing “Happy Birthday to You.” Notice that at the mention of the name of “Jesus” in “Happy birthday, dear Jesus”, all the children bowed their heads, in adoration. That’s my favorite spot in the movie. It’s just like how the shepherds in today’s Gospel reading (Lk 2:15-20) glorified and praised God “for all they had heard and seen”. It is about our response to Jesus, to the incarnation of the Son of God, to His birth as the Messiah, the Savior of mankind.


2. Night Shift. Of course, through the Annunciation by Angel Gabriel, Mary knew she was giving birth to the Messiah. An angel also informed Joseph in a dream. But the rest of mankind, the rest of us, how were we to know that the long-promised moment had come? Of course, that night, God sent an angel to those still awake, doing a night shift, still awake so they don’t think it was mere hallucination, shepherds keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel did a most plausible apparition, appearing to a collection of people, awake at the same time, working together, doing a night shift. The angel ensured they all saw him together. And the angel pronounced breaking news; good news; God-news; “Evangelizomai humin charan megalen”; “Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum”; “I proclaim to you good news of great joy” (Lk 2:10). Yes, the angel was clear, the good news is for all the people. The Messiah is born. The shepherds were given the sign for identifying the Messiah. In Bethlehem. Swaddling clothes. Baby in a manger. To help the shepherds and the rest of us appreciate and respond to this cosmic and transcendent event, a glimpse of the response of angels in Heaven was also given. The heavenly host sang in adoration: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace…”. The shepherds responded by going in haste to Bethlehem, where they found the infant Messiah and announced to everyone there who this baby is. And in today’s Gospel reading we heard the response of the people: “All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.” So, what is your response? Thank you for responding like the shepherds. Just like the shepherds headed to Bethlehem to see and worship, you have come here to church to worship the infant Messiah. Thank you.https://www.homilyhub.com/homily-for-the-nativity-of-the-lord-christmas-mass-at-dawn-year-a-2/

3. Response to the Messiah. Sisters and brothers, let’s therefore join the angels and the shepherds in glorifying and praising God. Let’s join Mary in contemplating God’s mysteries in our hearts. Let’s join Joseph in believing what has been revealed about this Messiah. Let’s join the 1st graders in bowing at the name of Jesus. But let’s not stop here. Let’s do what the angel did: namely, pass on the good news, to other people doing night shifts. Notice that those who are having a difficult time this Christmas season, would have been the ones found awake by the angel. Nurses and doctors doing night shift. Those clearing snow. Fire men and women, security persons, soldiers in trenches in Ukraine, defending their motherland against Putin’s unjust aggression. The sick kept awake by pain. Those mourning the death of loved ones, kept awake and in tears. Those awake due to hunger, due to harsh weather, due to loneliness or addiction. And even parents kept awake by their baby, they do night shifts all the time. To them we repeat the encounter of the angel with the shepherds, even in carol: “Fear not, said he for mighty dread had seized their troubled mind; glad tidings of great joy I bring to you and all mankind.” Yes, the Savior born for us in a manger would later invite all of us: “Come to me all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest”. (Mt 11:28). But even now, His being born in a manger is already a consoling lesson for us, an encouraging example for anyone in difficult circumstances. Albert Einstein puts it nicely and emphatically: “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” The infant Messiah in a manger, already signaled how He would save us from our sins, namely, through suffering, through the Cross. What a consoling example. Likewise, He empowers us to face and ultimately overcome our tragedies and pains. It is this assured victory that gives us inner joy and peace even while in sorrow and pain. Merry Christmas.



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