I have decided to start doing this reflection thing on only the Gospel first. Perhaps come Lent or Easter I might be able to work it up to more, but currently the thought is pretty daunting.
I am using the readings from the midnight mass simply because I like hearing the story of the birth of Jesus. While we may know that John’s Gospel is full of symbols and miracles and divinity, I prefer to hear about this child’s simple coming into the world.
The Birth of Jesus
In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favours!’
Joseph and Mary are traveling to Bethlehem for a census. I think the thing that boggles my mind is that Mary is very pregnant and they travel a great distance. No wonder we believe she was on a donkey – no preemies please! Even still, I feel the underlying message is that they journeyed while awaiting their child to be born. Isn’t that what Advent is about, continuing the journey as we await Christ? Taking time to remember just what it is we’re doing here, why being Christian makes us different. In Advent we remember that Christ has come to us, that Christ comes in our daily lives, and that Christ will come again.
The O Antiphons, which are the antiphons for the liturgy of the hours from December 17-23 (the octave prior Christmas), capture this tension of waiting perfectly in the titles of Christ:
O Radix Jesse
O Clavis David
O Rex Gentium
Well captured are these antiphons in a known hymn: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
Let us remember (especially if we hear this reading at Christmas) that what we celebrate on this day we wait continually for the fulfillment of this great feast: when Christ comes again.