[Part One] “And On Earth Peace to those on whom His favor rests. “
As we reflect on our Catholic-Christian faith this Christmas, can it be openly asked of us: “What Gospel of Jesus are you living?”
Hopefully it IS the Gospel of Jesus in you. [“Christ in us, the Hope of Glory”*—Colossians 1:27] Hopefully it is a Gospel of Jesus Alive and Living in the world through His people. Hopefully it is a message that Christmas is our Holyday/Holiday to tell the world that there is a Christ Mass going on in this very day (Christ=word meaning THE Anointed One and Mass=word meaning celebration). The celebration of Jesus the Lord is going on in His Body, the Church, from our founding until the Lord’s Return in Glory. Hallelujah!
Hopefully it is a story that others can see that truly Jesus is living in you and that He is sending His Goodness into the world via the life of you, His servant. For this is the Fulfillment that we were leading to in our Advent Series on Christ as Anointed Priest, Prophet and King.
The Christmas Gospel from the Morning Mass of the 25th (The Nativity Morn) comes from the evangelist Luke, and perhaps all of us should take ownership of its words as what we also need to say to the world at Christmas and every day: “I herald good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger… Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.”
If you recall the blogs and homilies of Advent, then you might see how this final line of the Christmas Lukan Gospel does connect all so well to The Message that God has been sending us at St. Edward’s. God has planned to send His Peace and Reconciliation to those on whom His favor rests.
Now, we know that the Favor of God did come upon Christ Jesus, the Blessed Eternal Son become man. Jesus said that this anointing of favor would come upon His followers. It says so in Matthew 11:25,26 “Father, You have revealed things of mystery to Your little ones. Yes, Father, such has been Your gracious will. All such things have been handed over to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him. [Also see Luke 10:22 or John 5:21 for more Scriptural proof on this.]
Remember, in God’s plan in coming among us, He was bringing an anointing to us through The Anointing on Jesus. This is a very Catholic understanding of things. Jesus is Mediator between Heaven and Earth. He is bringing the sacred into us by His works. It is our understanding of Sacrament, and Incarnation, and a Saving God Who chooses to become truly human. God intends to share His life into us by the Son and the Way of the Spirit.
It really all is unveiled with Mary’s acceptance of God’s plan and of the fruit of her acceptance: Blessed Jesus.
In the midst of the Gospels for the Birth of Christ (Luke 2), one finds the great testimony of faith and openness in Mary,
who was willing to be a maidservant to The Lord (Luke 1), and as a result, Christmas comes to the world when her son Jesus is born in Bethlehem. Luke 2:6 says “the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth…” She was a way for God to reveal Himself in His Son. In today’s Gospel section of Luke 2:19, Mary becomes quiet as she ponders and treasures the wonders that God is doing in her life and for the world. This so much describes our idea of sacrament and of “becoming holy as He is holy” as the Scriptures guide Catholics to live by.
We are very much meant to model Mary in giving welcome to Christ Jesus into the world by our own life and its availability to God. For, as Mary, we bring Jesus into the world, too, though not by childbirth, but indeed we do so by faith. We can ponder the treasures and wonders of God, too. We are designed by God to delight in our soul of His plans and ways. What a treasure it indeed is to behold God’s Son coming into our lives and living each day His life in us for our salvation.
The Gospels in the New Testament and the lived experience we call as our gospel of salvation is clearly the message brought to us by God in His Word and in His Church.
This is the Gospel Story that moves to life in the writings off the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and comes to us. This is the Gospel Story that has been lived by a people, Christ’ Church, that has been told by the witness of her members and of her many saints. As Mark’s Gospel ends in its final lines, “we are baptized and believe, and we go and preach the Gospel of Christ to all of creation.”
You and I by our baptism are designed for living the Good News. Like Mary, God weaves a story of our own cooperation with His Grace and Plan, and He takes the events of our one life to tell a story of Immanuel, the “God-with-us.” Christ is meant to come through our lives to tell a story.
How does our Gospel life (according to you) get put together? It is done a little differently than how the Good News in the Four Gospels (of the Evangelists) was put together. The evangelists saw a picture of Christ interacting with many, and the told of how the many accounts all worked together in a beautiful ministry of the Savior, from crib to the cross/ resurrection/ ascension and exaltation of The Lord. But for us, as we live as a Christian, we have our own account of God working within each of us. Then, as a Church, we have a corporal story and account of God working through us as His people, His beloved.
How does it work? God sends inspiration and teaching moments and circumstances our way, and more into our daily lives, such as the part of other Christians in our story—and with that—we are meant to be living a life all in tandem with His Son and in the power of His Spirit. It is “His Story” with our lives. What’s the title of the story? Maybe it’s: Jesus in me, Jesus in us. Or it could be “Give us our Daily Bread.”
That is Christianity. The Life Saver Jesus now lives in you and me.
Christ is inside—of each one of us—to make a Story of God’s redemption of humankind. That’s what a Christian is. What we accept in the Lord Jesus to do in our lives is our becoming His own, or our “becoming Christian (or becoming or being born again into peaceful communion with Him).” We are a holy work in progress, working with an affirmative “yes” to God in our will, minds and hearts. From there, the story is told. The Good News as told as working in you. God tells a story of faith via you.
For those who would be picking up a bible at all nor going to church, you are the “new” testament that there has been an Incarnation, that is, a coming of God into this world to participate and save us into reconciliation with Himself.
There are four evangelistic stories called the Four Gospels. They announce the basic story of salvation, just doing so from four perspectives of the one, true Jesus Christ.
In Luke 2 tonight (the Gospel), the evangelist says that the Christmas Event brings “good news of great joy for all the people: (as) to you is born…A Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: (the) child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
These lines give us followers of Jesus great joy.
Christmas gives us a Savior who is the Good News. Jesus is Salvation.
He has a lifetime of saving and loving and guiding to do in you—and me—this Savior—as He is not just the babe of Galilee. He is your Savior and mine in the here and now. He remains Savior in the glorified state in Heaven now, as exalted, yet He also is “born in time” as St. Luke says. He is born into us, in our time. He comes to save us. Jesus said plainly: I have come to seek and save the lost.” It is a big verse of Luke’s Gospel. It’s Luke 19:10.
God’s Son comes to us to be a LifeSaver.
We take a little commercial break in this homily. There is a Christmas present I remember from my past. The company “Lifesavers” made round breath mints and flavored candy in the shape of those water floating life savers. But rather than just buy a small roll, at Christmas they sold a whole “book” of lifesavers, in this box that looked like a book on a shelf, which opened up, and there were six rolls of candies for you inside, in assorted flavors. I got one of those about every Christmas for a span.
Maybe every Christmas Jesus is also saying that there is another LifeSaver you get at Christmas: His Holy Offering. Listen to the Eucharistic Prayer today that honors how we have Jesus as our Saving Offering for Peace with God.
This gift asks us to open it, just like my book of lifesavers had to be opened and unwrapped. So with us, we have to let Jesus open our way for a life of Grace, and He calls us to surrender to His Presence in us. When one does, by the help of the Holy Spirit, truly we can proclaim, that: Jesus is Lord.
Then your life is a Gospel Story.
We are all meant to be a Gospel story of how God is able to save us.
These 72 candles around the Christmas sanctuary do represent the glow of how Jesus’ 72 disciples went out with His message and actions of love. The gospel passage is in Luke 10. It is about a person and of persons going out as Good News ambassadors. These people were getting to know and love Jesus, and He sent them out two by two to start announcing Him and His message of “Good News.” Those “72” ordinary disciples (they were not apostles) had quite a story to tell themselves, being witness to Jesus walking the earth, and the things he taught and the things he did.
Guess who the “72” are now? It is you and me. It is The Church.
While people’s lives will reflect many different things about Jesus’ Story, there are fundamental unchanging points of the Incarnation. What are some basics: That God did come to us, as promised. That God became man. That He is and was Jesus of Nazareth, from a time about 20 centuries ago on earth. That now we who are truly Catholic (along with other Christians) profess that Jesus is Alive in us and in the whole People of God, because Jesus is Risen and He now is fulfilling His part to save us all in His Name. God is here. Jesus is given to our hearts. We live Him.
Truly the Son of God is living in His people on earth, and He has gathered many to Himself in Glory already, who once lived here on earth as His believers.
The Four Gospels proclaim Him from the Bible: “Truly this is (was) the Son of God. “ So says Mark 15:39, Matthew 27:54.
“To you is born this day…a Savior, Who is Christ and God.” So says today’s Luke 2:11 of the Christmas Story. And John’s Gospel says it in the first and fourteenth line of his Gospel that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God… and the Word (Person) became flesh and lived among us.”
As you get your own Good News story told to the world, it does help a lot to read the Four Gospels of the New Testament in the Bible to recognize Jesus. (Are you reading the Gospel Accounts of Christmas at home or in private for devotional time this Christmas season. It really is on the spiritual menu! The Church provides many pertinent Gospels for your look== given in the Daily Liturgy of the Word and especially in Sunday’s Gospel of the Sacred Liturgy.
Yet you also should pick up your Bible and do some prayerful reading of it yourself in these days.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are very happy to help us grow in our love and knowledge of Jesus.
They give us special perspectives of Jesus, the One Savior, the Son of God.
Luke’s Gospel shows that Jesus is born on our common level, and is born to a carpenter Joseph and his wife Mary, with Israel under occupation. In a sense, Luke says how Jesus ‘sneaks into the world’ and who would have thought to look for a new-born Savior in a shepherd’s town, Bethlehem? Who knew that the One first met by the local shepherds in this little place would save the whole world?
Some times in reading Luke, I feel like he is trying to drop us into a view of reality and life-as-it-is, as he unfolds the “live’ story of Jesus from start to finish—and the utter reality is that God really did come into the world as a humble child. He also died for sins. He also is the only one ever to rise from the dead.
Luke’s Gospel ends with the Ascension of Jesus, but this evangelist wasn’t able to stop there. He was inspired to write on and also give the Acts of the Apostles, the story of the Church getting started.
In comparison, Matthew’s Gospel will put some more attention on Jesus’ line of ancestry, which is back to King David. Jesus is of royal lineage, but one that was lost due to Israel’s lack of fidelity, and then suppressed by oppressor kingdoms. Yet Jesus is King in Matthew’s Gospel, and he shows it by being the only evangelist to mention how the infant Lord was heralded by kings or magi in the Christmas narrative. Jesus is King of Heaven come down, as told by the events with angels and miracles and fulfillment of Old Testament promises of God, and Jesus is come to lead the human race to victory over that what has held us down: sin, sickness, division, death. Christ the King overcomes them all, and then Christ ‘commissions’ us to live in His Name and His Victory. Matthew 28 ends with the Great Commission. as would God do it.
One other thing well known in Matthew is his inclusion of a long “Sermon on the Mount” that takes up several chapters of his gospel.
In comparison, the Gospel of Mark does not have a Christmas Story narrative in it, but opens the Gospel with Jesus’ ministry being announced in the desert by John the Baptist, His forerunner. It is a curious Gospel that opens not in Bethlehem, but in a desert by the Jordan. It asks if you will be interested enough to come out and see your need. Then, if you are willing to “follow” Christ, will you plunge in?
Mark is saying, that, like Luke, the Lord among us is fairly hidden, but are we ready for Him to be revealed? All through this Gospel Jesus is saying that salvation is a secret—that God really is come to earth in a human existence with divinity robed up in the flesh—He is certainly “discoverable” by the seeker. In the start of the Gospel of Mark people are out looking in the desert for hope; in the end of the gospel women have gone to Jesus’ tomb looking for hope. Jesus delivers it!
• Mark’s gospel speaks that God came among us. In Mark 1:11 he says, “the Voice comes from Heaven, You are my Son, the Beloved, with You I am well pleased.“ This affirms what he said in Mark 1:2 that God was coming, not a human origin person. Mark 1:3 points us to Isaiah 40:3, where again the way is to be prepared for God Himself to come. Again, here is the essence of Christmas, that this Jesus is “God with Us.” Mark 1:4-5 makes reference to a lot of people involved in confession and repentance. If you knew that God was to be on your doorstop tomorrow in all His glory, how would you prepare? Turn from self and sin, and open up the eyes of your heart!
• Mark 1:9,10 points to Isaiah 64:1 where Isaiah prays “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” (NRSV). Isaiah’s prayer is answered through the miracle of Christmas. Mark’s Good News says that IT has happened. The heavens are opened up!
• Mark’s Gospel leaves you with a brief Resurrection Story of Jesus. He seems to be asking at the end: ‘Interested, O seeker?
John’s Good News is a later entry, decades later, to a Church up and running. The other three synoptic gospels have earlier ‘publishing dates’ you might say. John speaks to the turn of the first century but says “we already have entered a new time period” when Jesus Christ came to us. John says that Christmas is like a whole new beginning for the world, while still granting us the freedom afforded humankind in the first round-about.
“In the beginning was the Word…” starts off John, borrowing the same words to start the Bible that Genesis uses, which was: “In the beginning, God.”
John is saying in His reflection and understanding of Jesus, that Jesus is the re-beginning of creation. Jesus is New Life and a New Order—freely to come in to willing participants. John is saying in chapter one of His Good News that Jesus is the Word, or God’s Son, entering the world, but Who was there always.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God…”
So, like a voice that goes forth and represents a Person, God’s Son comes into humanity to express the love and saving goodness of God. He is God communicated to us in a way we could “hear” or “get.” The Word comes as a Person.
John tells more in his opening of His Gospel. In John 1:14 he says that now He comes in the flesh appearing: “The Word was made flesh.” John 1:14. In the verses before that announcement, John says that Christmas and all that follows it in Jesus’ life will be a choice put up for humanity. We can change to be reconciled to God or we can stay estranged as we are. “But as many as received Him (the Word—Jesus—to their empty souls) to them He gave right to become children of God, who believe in His Name (or maybe said: to those who truly will trust and obey God and His coming to save us). “ This is a great line in John 1:12. One needs to understand it.
As Christmas is here, we translate the holy celebration of this season as to like the celebration of a life of faith lived life long: Will we let God work in us that we can become children of God? Do we celebrate our salvation at Christmas? Is it a big deal—God’s coming in Christ Jesus to us?! Will we be the believer at Christmas—celebrating Jesus and celebrating Church?