Christmas Eve Homily (Lk 2,1

Bishop Jean Scarcella – Basilica of the Abbey of Saint-Maurice

My sisters, my brothers, dear friends from here and elsewhere,

To say that Christmas is a universal holiday is undisputed, I think. But one might wonder why… Because of Tradition? Ancient Celtic festivals of light? Of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God? Of the truce that the party brings in the turmoil of the world? From man’s aspiration to peace? From the call to live family life more intensely? Or decorations in the streets and nativity scenes in churches, even Santa Clauses in the snows of the North as in the sands of the South? Or gifts that say love and friendship? All of this said pell-mell would risk giving a rather fragmented image of this party, but all these elements have one thing in common: light. Light in all its dimensions, the one originally celebrated during the winter solstice celebrations and the original one celebrated in the stable of Bethlehem.

Some properties of light are therefore highlighted here: the light which gives clarity by breaking the darkness, the light of the fire which warms in the icy night, the light which sparkles and expresses joy, the light which uncovers faces and opens hearts, the light of the truce that brings comfort. In fact the light draws in the night the circumference of the shadows, and splashes during the day the truth which is exposed: the sun shining in the night, the stars sparkling on the day… In the light, the night and the day come closer , evil and good are reconciled, the foreign and the familiar come together, “love and truth meet, justice and peace embrace” (Ps 84, 11).

The Bethlehem nativity scene, the source of all that men can experience during this Christmas period.

We contemplate, in the foreground of this marvelous painting, a wide range of meanings concerning Christmas, but, attracted by its vanishing point, we will inevitably be drawn towards the nativity scene in Bethlehem. What seems second, then becomes first, the place-source of all that men can experience during this Christmas period. Whether we like it or not, it is as if time stood still, peace being able to take all the place in the life of the world, families regrouping unanimously in love, traditions carrying so many meanings then like incarnating in a precise moment of History.

Yes, the light remains first, and the dawn rising over the world on Christmas Day is indeed God’s unique gift to humanity, his creation which he wants to save from all that opposes the light, leading it into the eternal clarity in him. Yet every man experiences “his” Christmas, but remains attached in one way or another to this primary element that brings him happiness, joy and hope.

I say yes to all this, but I only believe it possible at the cost of our prayer, of the prayer of the Church which in Jesus, God makes flesh and Light of the world, the only bearer of the cry of men towards God, cry of joy, expectation and hope. Finally a celebration of man for man. And for us Christians, because the Son of Man was born, Light of the world, a feast of God among men: Emmanuel!

So let us remember the words of Saint Paul to Titus heard just now: “Beloved, the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, […] waiting for the realization of the blessed hope: manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Three lines, brothers and sisters, of enormous density, three lines which are the kerygma, the announcement of the Word made in the name of God, revealing the realization of his work of Love. If the manifestation of grace is indeed the birth of the Son of God, the blessed hope as for it confesses the life of faith, and the manifestation of the glory of God proclaims salvation. The kerygma, that is to say the announcement of the Christian faith, is a whole and can only be stated in part. Thus one cannot think of Christmas, the first birth, without hoping for the resurrection, the new birth for men, which will coincide with the second coming of Christ on earth. Christmas cannot be an in itself, but is a beginning, without which the work of God could not take shape. And the beginning is indeed the birth of Jesus, the Emmanuel – God with us –, God who took on the body of man to integrate humanity and prepare it, by his Word, his Word, to begin his journey of salvation by echo to the blessed hope.

If the birth of Jesus is the beginning, his resurrection is the end

An author wrote this marvelous expression: “The cradle of Christmas is under the shadow of the cross”. It gives chills as it is beautiful in accuracy and mystery! How can man, a creature loved by God, walk towards his salvation, if it is not obtained for him by God himself, in Jesus, a first name which means precisely: “The-Lord-saves”? “For – says Saint Paul further on – he gave himself for us in order to redeem us from all our faults, and to purify us in order to make us his people, a people eager to do good. “That is to say, to save us! Thus Jesus was to be born, but his cradle was already under the shadow of the cross, for it is indeed this which is the sign of salvation, that of deliverance from death, and the blessed hope of eternal life to come. If the birth of Jesus is the beginning, his resurrection is the culmination. And between these two great moments in the history of every believer in the God of Jesus Christ, there is the path of hope, this path of faith which prepares every man to follow Jesus, to enter into his mystery and receive the promised inheritance. And following Jesus is not only the putting into practice of his word and his teachings, of his examples and of all the love he offers to those who open up to him, but also the exercise of conversion which frees from all sin, the fight against evil, the search for peace, the will to develop gestures of kindness, so many manifestations of man, interspersed in the life of Jesus and gathered on the cross, where they will be purified and quickened, in order to be exalted for the glory of God the Father.

Yes, brothers and sisters, this great joy at the birth of the Savior who is Christ, and which is announced to us today, must be for us, of course first of all a source of wonder and thanksgiving without likewise before God the Father, but cannot disregard the gift of love of Jesus offering his life on the cross for the salvation of the world, nor the hope he has thus placed in our hearts so that, our throughout our lives we proclaimed the Good News of salvation. That of the nativity scene in Bethlehem, that of the light flooding the heart of humanity, that which is the way to heaven of infinite bliss.

So be it!

Night Mass
Biblical readings: Isaiah 9,1-6 / Psalm 95 / Titus 2,11-14 / Luke 2,1-14

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Christmas Eve Homily (Lk 2,1-14) – Swiss Catholic Portal