Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017 Christmas Eve Reflection

The Gospel Reading of the Feast of the Nativity--Vigil Mass (Short Version):
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25
The complete opening chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew is the Gospel reading for this Mass. It has two parts:  the genealogy from Abraham to Jesus (a total of 42 generation) and the birth of Jesus. It is this second part which will be my focus.

But before we look at this couple, we have to look at another.

The First Couple.

God, Who made man and woman in His image and likeness, is with Adam and Eve as He gives them dominion over all the Earth. He asks one thing:  to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; if so, they will die. So our First Couple hear the words of the Lord and heed them--they obey. They continue to do that until the Fall. And while God is still with them, they are not with Him.

So begins a pattern between God and humanity, now the tarnished and broken crown of His creation. Throughout salvation history, when the figures of the Old Testament heard and heeded the words of the Lord, He was with them. All the while, the promise of a savior rang through what God commanded.

When we return to St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary, the parallelism somewhat ends. While our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the new Adam and not St. Joseph, this couple still has the same choice as the First Couple. They must now hear and heed the words of the Lord, lest God not be with them. But this time, the stakes were seemingly much higher. To not hear and heed the words of the Lord could mean the Word would not be made flesh at the appointed time. To not obey could mean even more delay in our salvation.

Like Eve, Mary would have the first chance. Gabriel, not the serpent, would speak to the New Eve. Instead of a denunciation, a rejection of the Word, Mary chose to heed the words of the Lord. And in the most intimate way possible, the way God desires our relationship with Him to be, God was truly
with Mary.

Now, it was St. Joseph's turn. Devoutly obedient to Mosaic Law as he was, there was a voice greater than Moses speaking to him--the One Who wrote the Law. Like Mary, assured this was all part of the plan of salvation, he also chose to heed the words of the Lord. Once again, God was truly with him.

The key to all this, as you have surmised by now, is obedience. While all those we've seen who heard and heeded the words of the Lord make great examples, there is no greater example than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself. His life on Earth was all about saying "yes" to God, hearing and heeding the words of the Lord (and because He is the Word made Flesh, being true to Himself), doing His Father's will. St. Paul says it best:
Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Phil. 2 6:11
Advent has been a time of preparation. It has been a time of hearing and heeding. It has given us an opportunity to become more obedient. It has been about "making room at the inn" of our being so that God can be with us even more. It is the answer to this verse of "O Little Town Of Bethlehem":
O holy child of Bethlehem! Descend to us we pray;
Cast our our sin and enter in; Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, our Lord Emmanuel!
Our time to prepare for this year is finished.

Hodie Christus natus est!

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