Nativity of the Lord – Year B
December 24, 2020 – 7:00PM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Isaiah 9:1-6 | Psalm 96:1-3;11-13
Titus 2:11-14 | Luke 2:1-14
+In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.
How many of you have a decorated Christmas tree in your home? For me, probably the most exercise I get during the month of December is putting up the Christmas tree and all the Christmas decorations such as poinsettias, candles, lights, stockings on the mantle, our Menorah, and all the outside lighted snowflakes, nativity scene, angels, candy canes and even a lighted dachshund. It usually takes about ten days to get everything properly in its place, even with the help of Pedro, our handyman.
But the custom of having ceremonial trees brought indoors during winter predates Christianity. Legend has it that St. Boniface, the great evangelist in Germany in the 8th century, saved a young boy named Asulf from being sacrificed on an altar below an oak tree. The ceremonial hammer of Thor, the pagan god, was knocked out of the hand of the pagan priest by St. Boniface to rescue Asulf. St. Boniface proclaimed, “This is the birth night of Christ, the Son of the Father, the Savior of mankind. St. Boniface then took his ax and struck down the tree, splitting it into four pieces. Behind it stood a young fir tree that pointed towards heaven.
St. Boniface then told the people, “This little tree, a young child of the forest, shall be your holy tree tonight. It is the wood of peace and the sign of an endless life, for its leaves are evergreen. Let this tree be called the tree of the Christ-child. Gather about it in your own homes decorated with candles. Then St. Boniface told the story of Bethlehem with the Baby Jesus in the manger, Mary and Joseph, and all the shepherds, angels, and wise men.
This story tells how the beautiful tradition of the Christmas tree began. So as the days get shorter and darker, we have our beautiful Christmas trees inside our homes and adorn the outside of our houses with a festive array of cheerful lights and decorations to brighten our neighborhoods.
The gloominess of winter is a reminder of the darkness we all face throughout our lives, and especially this year during the pandemic. But it is during this darkest time that we are given the birth of Jesus, the light of the world. The sense of hope He gives us for the future overshadows all the darkness surrounding the pandemic.
God has given us His only Son so we can become more mindful of the simple acts of kindness or the little things we do with great love which are necessary to keep our world bright.
In our first reading today from Isaiah, God brings hope to all those in the darkest periods of their lives. God promises us the birth of the long-awaited Messiah who will bring peace and justice for all and comfort and rejoicing for the sorrowful and oppressed. All those who live by God’s way will be free of the burdens of violence, drugs, emotional troubles, and unhappiness.
Our second reading from Titus has Paul reminding us of God’s grace as believers have died to sin and the world to be with Jesus and experience resurrection with Him.
In today’s Gospel from Luke, a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all in the Roman world should be enrolled. This was to be the first registration ever. Caesar Augustus, whose first name was Octavianus, was the nephew of Julius Caesar and became emperor after the latter’s death. This “enrollment” was to ascertain the numbers and property of the Jews.
So, were it not for this “enrollment”, Joseph and Mary would not have had occasion to have come to Bethlehem. Joseph and Mary were two young people who were pledged to be married. Mary was expecting a child as she had been approached by an angel and told she would bear the Son of God while she was a virgin.
When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, there was no guest room at the inn, so they went instead to a stable. When Jesus was born, He was placed in a manger, which is basically a feeding trough for the animals.
Then something unexpected happened: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them and they were terrified.”
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you; you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
Hear those words, the good news which literally means gospel.
The good news is for you and all people: the homeless, the broken-hearted, the sick, the suffering, the addicts, the sinners, the cheaters, the liars, and all those without hope.
The good news is a baby, the Messiah, Jesus. Now we have someone to save us from all our travails and sins, to give us peace and everlasting life.
God’s gift to us cannot ever be taken away from us.
At Christmas, it is easy to get caught up in all the lights, songs, Christmas trees, decorations, and presents, but the true meaning of Christmas is the good news and the hope Jesus brings to us. Just as the song states, “Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year.”
Let us pray:
Lord, we ask You, grant us peace.
Peace in our homes, peace in our churches, and peace in our hearts, especially when it feels like the world around us spins out of control.
Help us stay focused on You this Christmas time and always. Thank You for loving the whole world enough to send the greatest gift, Your Son, so we might truly have a very merry Christmas, even in a not-so-merry kind of world.
This we ask in Jesus’ Name.