It’s All About The Child
Father Hanly’s beautiful homily for Midnight Mass, Year A, is all about the Christmas child.
Readings for Midnight Mass, Year A
- First Reading: Isaiah 9:1-6
- Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13
- Second Reading: Titus 2:11-14
- Gospel: Luke 2:1-14
What a wondrous story we have just heard. How beautiful the imagery of St Luke.
St Luke was a friend of St Paul and he also knew Mary very closely and he knew all the incidents surrounding the birth of Jesus very well. And Luke loved Mary, the teenage mother, and he must have known Joseph worried about many things like every father worries.
Mary and Joseph made the hundred-mile trip all the way from Nazareth, all the way down through the desert areas and through most difficult times, she being already pregnant with Jesus, the Messiah.
And it took them two to three weeks, Mary on the donkey and Joseph walking beside her, through the heat of day and cold of night through the dangerous roads of passage to Bethlehem where they knew no one at all and were total strangers.
Even though Joseph’s ancestors came from the ancient line of the kings of David, he himself was just a simple carpenter from Nazareth trying to make ends meet during hard times.
And, of course, the child was the most important to both of them. And they came into the village and they couldn’t find a place and her time had come and they were worried.
And, finally, someone showed them to a cave, a cave for keeping animals, “because there was no room for them in the inn.” And Mary gave birth to her Child there and “wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, (a feeding stall for cattle).
And there the child lay, the Messiah, the promised one of Isaiah, and a whole line of other prophets. Indeed “The hope of all the years born on Christmas Day.”
This child is not just a child. This child is not just a baby from a poor family in a hopeless little outpost of the Roman Empire. This child is the Son of God.
And, of course, that is the reason why we are sitting here today. We do not come merely to pay our respects to a famous person. We do not come because it’s been a traditional habit to celebrate two thousand years of Christian history. We have come because this little bit of flesh and blood born this day and lying in the manger is the Son of God.
We can’t begin to imagine how the Son of God could come into such a poor situation.
And then we wonder. We wonder why? Why would God do this? Why would the Child of Mary come to us in this way?
Now, if we loved someone, if we loved somebody very much and she became pregnant and we were going to care for her, and if we knew that the child was the Son of God, what would we do?
We’d find the best place in all the kingdom. We would bring the child to where he would be treated as a king and a lord and as the hope of all future civilisations.
Instead, the Son of God will take on human flesh as a helpless, needy little child, born in such terrible circumstances and in such a terrible place.
And then to know that he is indeed the Son of God.
And why do we know this?
Because the scriptures tell us: ‘God so loved the world, so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, His one and only Son, that we might be healed and we might be saved.’
Out of love, God does this.
Out of love He sends his Son poor and needy, that we might become rich beyond all telling.
Why poor and needy?
God does such things, his love demands it, his love is never triumphant. It’s not a love that marches down streets with armies in battle array. His love is small, it’s quiet, a love you hardly even notice until you do not have it anymore, and then it’s like a pain in the heart that never leaves you.
And this is what God is saying to us: the only way to learn how to love the way God loves is by loving the Child, the Christmas child, the needy child, Jesus, who knows his need for God his Father, and knows his need for Mary and for Joseph, too.
And that is the beginning of the great lesson that the world is still trying to learn. It is the same lesson we gather here to learn this evening: the Son of God came as a helpless, needy child, that he might show us that the beginning of love is to be helpless and needy and recognise it, an end to the arrogance and pride, an end to the marching armies and endless wars.
If we could only learn and put into practice what we have seen at Bethlehem. The child grows, the child is humble, the child loves, the child makes no demands, except for us to love one another as he has loved us.
And the child Jesus comes to live with us, to be one with us ordinary people, accepting us, and taking on our flesh and blood, our own humanity, so that we might learn how precious we are in sharing God’s divinity. Our Father has given his Son to us that we might see ourselves as sons and daughters of God Himself.
This indeed could change the world and it is, in fact, already changing the world. For God’s love is always with us. And we, we are with Him, His children, the children of God.