Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Midnight Mass Year B

It is the Midnight Mass. Did you know, minus the Vigil Mass, that the timing of the Christmas liturgies, and there are three of them, revolves around the interplay between light (or its absence) and the co-called three nativities of Christ? The timing, meaning what time a Mass is celebrated, can be said to correspond to the nativity of Christ before (or outside of) time, in time and in our hearts.
Midnight with its darkness contemplates the mystery of the Only Begotten Son of the Father—a mystery written in the vocabulary of eternity—as the Credo goes—born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.
Mass at Dawn recalls the birth of Christ in time—by the Holy Spirit He was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became Man. At Bethlehem, the appearance of the Son in history corresponds to dawn dispelling the darkness of the night.
And finally, the Mass during the Day points us to Christ being born in our souls, through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. With the grace of Christ in our hearts we are enlightened.
This timing or the interplay of light and darkness is well and good to know. There is however, another aspect of the Christmas Liturgy which I highlighted earlier this evening at the Vigil Mass. It is the “already and not yet” mark of salvation and also of Christian discipleship. Tonight, this "already and not yet" characteristic of salvation history is best expressed in the sense that we focus on the "already" as we keep the "not yet" at bay.
Why do we do that? We stress the "already" because it is a celebration of how great God is. Thus, our worship calls to linger, to marvel and to rejoice.
We linger because God has come. Have you ever been to a party where the end takes like forever? This type of experience is at times termed as “Stations of the Cross” because people take forever to say goodbye. Fortunately, that is where the analogy ends because this kind of a goodbye is tiring. But, our lingering here is not tiring. We linger because of a marvellous deed that God has done in history.
God has shown his great sense of humour. He whom the universe cannot contain is contained in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. So, we marvel at the birth of a child whom the first reading acclaims as the light that shone on a people in darkness. We, like the shepherds, hurry to Bethlehem to pay homage to the Creator of the world lying helplessly in a manger.
And here, to linger and to marvel requires a lot more courage and certainly humility. Instead of lingering and marvelling, what we encounter is the prevailing dynamo driving the spirit of Christmas—a dynamism which consists a lot more of noise and distraction. If we are not eating, then we are drinking. If we are not drinking then we are shopping. If we are not shopping then we are visiting… and so on. The courage is for us to step aside, perform a kind of paradox, to stand in silence before so stupendous a mystery as the Son of God became Man and was born in time. Without having to say anything—our silence allows the mystery of our salvation to emerge.
This is not easy for a generation oriented to results, this kind of lingering to marvel would seem unproductive. But maybe we dare not, not because we are result-oriented but because we have arrogated to ourselves the position of God? Yes, Psalm 8 proclaims that we are little less than a god and we are invited also to behave LIKE God—as in being His co-creators –but the sad reality is we often behave AS God. In short, we dare not allow God to be God which explains our necessity to act as if we were the saviours of the world.
Tonight, we are reminded that there is only one Saviour of the world and He is Emmanuel because He has come to be with us. Yes, He appeared in time as a helpless Babe but we rejoice that this helpless Babe will one day lay down His life so that the world will be restored to the Father’s glory. As we stand before the crib, the only appropriate posture is silence. So, in reverential silence before the manger, whatever problems we have, no matter how heavy our burden of sin may be, and even if the world is still not right, the helpless little Babe invite us to trust Him to bear our burden because He alone is the Saviour of the world. Come let us adore Him.