The Nativity of the Lord

Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Ps 98; Jn 1:1-18 (Year B)

The imagery and vocabulary of the Christmas readings trigger a kaleidoscope of memory and emotion. The prophet Isaiah addressed a people that had walked in darkness. In different ways we have walked in darkness; we have lived in a land of deep shadow. In every generation there are those for whom chance, circumstance and sin have become the burden that weighs so heavily on the shoulder. Throughout the world troubled hearts and troubled minds long for peace. We long for the child born as the Prince of Peace.

We long for the reassurance of God’s presence, but fear that a sinful past puts us beyond his reach. The familiar Christmas narratives tell a different story. Here the birth of the Saviour was first proclaimed to forgotten shepherds relegated to the fringes of respectable society: the Bethlehem shepherds guarding their sheep by night.

The very manner of Christ’s birth spoke to the dispossessed in every generation. When the time had come for the child to be born, Mary and Joseph were far from home, fleeting visitors in a strange town. The Son of God chose to be born into the desperation of their need. Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that the homeless soon became the persecuted as this defenceless family fled Herod’s jealousy. As we go to bed this Christmas night, let us remember the homeless refugees in our cities. For these, comfort endures as a distant memory.

John’s Gospel gives no detail to the Christmas story. Instead he stretches our imaginations to ponder the wonder of Christ’s birth. Bethlehem’s story had its beginning beyond place and time, beyond creation itself: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him.”

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