Prior Senan’s Homily at Christmas Midday Mass

Blessed be the Child who today delights Bethlehem.

Blessed be the Newborn who today made humanity young again.

Blessed be the Fruit who bowed himself down for our hunger.

Blessed be the Gracious One who enriched all our poverty and filled our need.

Blessed be he whose mercy inclined him to heal our sickness.

                St Ephrem, Hymns on the Nativity 3

Today is Christmas Day, a day of healing, a day that is rich in gifts, a day that satisfies our longing and inner hunger, a day that refreshes us, makes us new and young again, a day that gladdens our hearts. This is the day our Saviour was born: let us rejoice and give thanks.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Isaiah, like a child on Christmas Eve eagerly anticipating Santa’s arrival, sings for joy and bursts with excitement. Watchmen in the lookout towers of Jerusalem have spotted on the mountain below a long awaited messenger running towards the city. The news he brings is good, really good, news of happiness and peace. The exile is over. The Lord is returning. He is coming back to console his people and restore the ruined city.

But the mysterious messenger running over the mountain is not just a figure of the past. For us here and now the messenger is also the mystery and miracle of Christmas. How beautiful are the feet of Christmas that come leaping over the brow of each year to bring us good news, to tell us again and again that Christ is born for us. We may have packed God away in the attic of our lives along with last year’s Christmas decorations but today he returns to us, tangible, visible and felt. And his name is Emmanuel, God with us: with us in good times and bad, with us in our difficulties and struggles, our anxieties and fears; with us in our grief and loss; with us even in the ruins of our own making, in the tumbledown state of our hearts with all their weakness, failure, and sin.

Today’s gospel sums up the heart of the Christmas message in one striking line of poetry: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In Jesus, the Word made flesh, we see God and know him; in Jesus, God sees us and loves us. In becoming flesh in Jesus, God is saying, “My dwelling is with you. I am here to stay.” That is why he comes in a way that does not intimidate, frighten or overwhelm us. He comes as a newborn baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. God makes himself small so that we can understand him, welcome him and love him.

So, if we take a moment to stop and ask ourselves what Christmas is all about, we might begin to consider what the good news of ‘God being-with-us’ asks of us. If the Word became flesh to be with us, then we in our turn must become flesh too, become more truly human so as to be with, and for, one another. With Christ comes the real meaning of being human. If we say yes to the mystery and the miracle we are celebrating today and welcome Christ in, his humble love will enter our hearts and leaven them from within. He will not let the goodness and kindness deep within be defeated and undermined by selfishness, bitterness, hatred and by all that drags us down. If we say yes, Christ will be born for us and each of us will become a new sacrament of God’s incarnation.

God incarnate in us is his way of coming into this world today. Christ knocks on our door. Let us lift high our gates and let the King of glory, the Infant Child, enter in.

Glory to your coming that restored humankind to life.