Feast Day: The First Mass of Christmas
Readings: Isaiah 9.2-7; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2.1-14
“Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
On this very night billions of Christians are gathering around the world for what is according to St John Chrysostom our, “most holy and awesome of all feasts…the mother of all holy days”—Christmas.
Christmas is one of those times of year that is so familiar to us that we can risk losing sight of it’s true meaning especially amidst all of the hustle and bustle and lights and shopping. But tonight for a few moments we enter the stillness of this church and ponder the true meaning of this holy night, along with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds. Tonight we gather around the manger and as we peer into the face of this baby we discover in him the one who is the Saviour of the world. My Saviour. Your Saviour.
It all comes down to a birth. A birth that is at once like every other human birth and at the same time unlike every other human birth. Like every baby he nursed at his mother’s breast, needed changing and bathing, kept his parents up during the night, and contrary to Away in a Manger crying he most certainly did make.
At the same time this baby is unlike every other baby. In 100 years the world will have long forgotten my birth and probably yours too. But for 2000 years and counting the world has been remembering and celebrating the birth of this baby. For 2000 years this baby has been transforming individuals, and communities, and even societies. And he can and will transform your life as well.
So, who is this baby that you and I and billions of others should care? He is the one who the prophet Isaiah wrote about some 700 years earlier saying, “For a child has been born for us, a son given to us: authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” He is the one who the angel of the Lord announced to the shepherds in the field saying, “I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.” He is the one who the Apostle Paul called, “the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour.”
Let me just say it plainly. In the birth of Jesus 2000 years ago, in Bethlehem in a shelter made for animals, God himself took on real flesh-and-blood and came to be with us. That’s why this birth is totally unique. That’s why we’re here tonight.
Why did he come at all? To save: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.” A Saviour delivers people from their enemies and brings peace. Our gospel reading tonight began with a reference to the Roman Emperor Augustus. Augustus was known as the Saviour of the world because his reign brought nearly two centuries of peace to the Roman Empire. But of course as you and I know worldly peace comes and goes.
Jesus, however, is the true Saviour of the world and he brings a peace that lasts. He saves us from the power of sin and death and brings the deep and abiding peace of God to the world, changing the way the whole world works. And he does this not by military might but by sacrificial love. Listen again to the words of the angel: “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.” Everything that this child will be and will do is for us. For all of us.
A few weeks ago I was in Israel and had the pleasure of visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth where Joseph and Mary raised Jesus our Lord. All around and inside the church are different cultural depictions of the Virgin Mary and her baby—from Singapore, to Poland, to Colombia, and yes to Canada. Because for 2000 years the baby born this night has been setting the world ablaze with the love of God and tonight he longs to set you ablaze as well.
What would it look like for you to take that next step of faith towards him? He was a baby so that you might grow up into the fullness of who God made you to be. He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, so that you might be set free from the bonds of death. He came to earth so that we might be in heaven. He became poor so that we might become rich. O come let us adore him.