CHRISTMAS

SPREAD GOD'S WORD BY DEED AND WORD, MEDITATE ON IT ALL LIFE LONG

First Reading : (Is 62: 11-12 ) : The Savior has come
Second Reading : (Tit 3: 4-7 ) : God's saving grace springs from His mercy
Gospel : (Lk : 2 : 15-20 ) : The shepherds find Mary and Joseph
Chinese Classics “If a man in the morning hears the right way, he may die in the evening without regret.”(1)
“The closer I get to my homeland, the more nervous I am.”(2)

The shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Lk 2 :15-20 )

As we celebrate the feast of Christmas today, let us look at two of the main personalities to find the best way and spirit with which to celebrate this feast. These are the shepherds and Mary.

First, the shepherds. In the First Reading today the Prophet Isaiah says, “The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to daughter Zion, ‘See, your salvation comes; his reward is with him and his recompense before him.’ They shall be called,, ‘The Holy People, the Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called, ‘Sought Out, a city not Forsaken.’”(Is 62: 11 –12).

Isaiah wrote this when he returned home from exile. The land had been devastated, fields left uncultivated, fallen structures and debris were everywhere. People were despondent and hopeless, those who had been called “The Chosen People” seemed abandoned. The ‘God of the Mighty Army,’ the ‘Ever-Victorious God' was unable to withstand even one blow! It seemed ‘Age of the Messiah’ was a vain hope after all. It had been a fantasy, a rumor only, a broken promise, with no foundation in truth. Year after year the Israelites had waited in hope for the Messiah, as the people in a drought look to the cloud, the drowned person to the helpful arm.

But when the time had been fulfilled, God's promise of thousands of years did indeed materialize. The Messiah truly appeared in the midst of humankind! Some shepherds keeping watch at night heard the angels' joyful message: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” ( Lk 2: 10-12)

They went, they saw, they found, they believed. Thousands of years of waiting and anxiety, year after year of expectation, - suddenly he was there before their eyes, their expectations had been fulfilled, had become a reality! The shepherds spread the word and gave praise to God. They glorified God with joy, praised His great mercy and sang of His wonderful love. “They made known what had been told them about this child. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God” ( See Lk 2: 17, 20 )

It is true what Confucius said, “If a man in the morning hears the right way, he may die in the evening without regret.” These shepherds did not just hear the Way, they were actually with the Way, and in personal, individual, close contact with this Way. Having had contact with the Way, the shepherds must live out the Way, experience the blessings of the Way, and spread news of the Way.
That was the shepherds' response to the coming of Christ. It must be our response and attitude at Christmas also, preaching by word and deed what we have experienced of God's great gift of salvation.

The second important personage at Christmas is Mary, the mother of the newborn infant. Scripture records that Mary ‘kept all these things in her heart.’ That is, she ‘remembered,’ or ‘pondered them in her heart.’ Over and over she thought about her experiences, contemplated them deeply. “Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” ( Lk 2 : 19 )

Mary was just a young country girl, simple and unpretentious. She was not from a prestigious or well-known clan or tribe. She was from common, ordinary stock. How could she not think back to nine months earlier when the angel had said to her, “Hail, full of grace!” She was part of the Chosen People who had waited for thousands of years for the Messiah. Now he would be her son, growing within her womb, part of her very life!

As the baby inside her grew day by day, Mary was overwhelmed with a combination of feelings: anticipation, anxiety, joy, blessedness. The Chinese sages wrote, “the closer I get to my homeland, the more nervous I am”. As the date for her child grew nearer Mary must have had an unfathomable emotion. It must have been an indescribable emotion the best and greatest mother in the world felt before she gave birth to her first-born child.

Finally, Jesus was born. The infant lying before her was truly God, yet truly human. She held him in her arms, kissed and cradled him, fed him. With her own life's precious milk she nursed him. Her life actually had come from him, and now she was nourishing his life with her own life!

Let us meditate and reflect again and again! How can we not be filled with astonishment and gratitude, marveling at this mystery, a mystery we can never fully understand. What else can we do except continue to ‘ponder in our hearts’ the God who came down to earth for us.

(1)朝聞道,夕死可也。
(2) 近鄉情更怯。