Vigil of Christmas Gospel Reflection 2021

Friday, December 24, 2021

by Sister Barbara Barry, SNDdeN

Have you noticed how the Church recognizes the enormity of the Christmas story? The lectionary is set with three readings for each Sunday during the year and whether you worship on Saturday evening, Sunday morning or Sunday evening the readings are the same. But not so with Christmas! The vigil mass, mass at dawn and the mass during the day all have different readings. There is so much to tell about the importance of the Incarnation. The Church doesn’t want us to miss a thing about this tremendous act of unconditional love. Matthew’s gospel tells the story from Joseph’s view, Luke’s gospel is from Mary’s view and John’s gospel is from the view of the early Christian community after some years of contemplating the mystery.

All over the world families gather around tables to celebrate the goodness of life during this month. Whether it’s Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or a myriad of other festivals, loved ones gather to share food, remember their ancestors and show their love for one another in giving gifts. Perhaps our family stories get a little exaggerated with each retelling but what each generation wants to do is make sure that the newest family members know who came before them and who helped shaped the family into who they are today. This is what we see in the readings for the Christmas vigil liturgy.

The beginning of tonight’s gospel may seem a little tedious. I remember the first time I went to midnight mass as a young teenager thinking what a boring way to start the Christmas story. As I got older and studied scripture, learning who some of these people were, I grew in my appreciation of the story. We all have a past, we all come from somewhere. Sometimes the family characters are heroes and sometimes we learn what not to do from earlier generations. Whatever the stories, they shape who we have become. So, too, with Mary and Joseph and Jesus. We call Jesus Emmanuel – God is with us – and this story reminds us of all that the name means. The rest of the story in Matthew’s gospel tells us of Joseph and his pondering of the work of God. We often say how hard it must have been for Mary to understand what was happening to her but how did any of this make sense to Joseph? Believing this intervention of the Holy Spirit must have made no sense to him, even if he were a faithful Jew who longed for the Messiah.

So, let yourself be embraced by the words you hear tonight. Isaiah reminds us that God calls us “my delight” and Paul reminds us that our God has been faithful through all generations, “keeping his promise” in sending a Saviour. Tell your family stories around your Christmas table and ponder the work of the Holy Spirit in your own family for you are part of the Beloved Community and a glorious work of God. Merry Christmas.

Matthew 1: 1-25

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king.David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah. Solomon became the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph. Asaph became the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah. Uzziah became the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. Hezekiah became the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos the father of Josiah. Josiah became the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the Babylonian exile.

After the Babylonian exile, Jechoniah became the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud. Abiud became the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok. Zadok became the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar. Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.

The Gospel of the Lord

Meet Sister Barbara Barry, SNDdeN

Sister Barbara Barry is a native Bostonian and entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur in 1969 at Ipswich, Massachusetts. She has ministered primarily in secondary education administration and currently serves on the Leadership Team for the US East West Province. Click here to learn more about Sister Barbara.

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