Engaging Faith | Tue, Dec 23, 2014
Christmas, December 25, 2014
Copyright © 2014 Center of Concern
Vigil: Isaiah 62:1-5; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Matthew 1:1-25 or Matthew 1:18-25
Midnight: Isaiah 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Dawn: Isaiah 62:11-12; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:15-20
During the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18
December 16-24: Hanukah (Jewish)
December 25: Christmas
December 26: Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr
December 26: Start of Kwanzaa
December 27: Feast of Saint John
December 28: Feast of the Holy Family
January 1, 2014: Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
January 1, 2014: World Day of Prayer for Peace & New Year’s Day
THE JOY OF THE GOSPEL fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus
- Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 1
God’s heart has a special place for the poor, so much so that he himself “became poor” (2 Cor 8:9). The entire history of our redemption is marked by the presence of the poor.
- Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 197
Our hearts this Christmas are anxious and distressed because of the continuation in various parts of the world of war, social tensions, and the painful hardships in which so many people find themselves. We are all seeking an answer that will reassure us.
- John Paul II, homily, December 24, 2001
Our Savior is born for all. We must proclaim this not only in words, but by our entire life, giving the world a witness of united, open communities where fraternity and forgiveness reign, along with acceptance and mutual service, truth, justice and love.
- Benedict XVII, Urbi et Orbi Message, Christmas 2006
Why should there be rich people that have more than they need and poor who don’t have anything? God didn’t plan it that way. He planned for us to be equals. That’s why we have to build a society where everyone has the right to live a decent life.... Maybe it sounds like I have my head in the clouds. But I’ve heard about these astronauts in the United States who’ve gone into outer space. And I figure, hell, if these astronauts can get to the moon, then why can’t ordinary folks like us learn to share the earth?
- Elvia Alvarado, the Honduran Human Rights Advocate
Real blood was shed at this delivery, by a poor woman of peasant society far from home, laboring in childbirth for the first time. And it was holy.
- Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, Truly Our Sister, 277
We should not serve the poor like they were Jesus. We should serve the poor because they are Jesus.
- Mother Teresa, In My Own Words
Thoughts for your consideration
It is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life.
The Incarnation, i.e. Christmas, is a celebration of God’s affirmation of the goodness of life and especially human life. It is a celebration of God’s engagement in life here on earth and even in the struggles, questions, poverty and injustices of life. The readings from the four possible Christmas masses, share this wonderful message to all people and especially to the poor.
At the Vigil Mass, Isaiah tells us that “the Lord delights in you … so shall your God rejoice in you.” In Acts, we are told that Israel, despite all her sins, has a savior. In Matthew’ gospel, we listen to the long genealogy which includes saints and sinners but at the same time leads to the birth of the child who will affirm the mercy of God and who will be called “Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” With the revelation of Jesus, the Christ, it is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life. It is good to be part of the struggle for solidarity, justice and peace.
At the Mass in the Night, Isaiah tells us that all the symbols of oppression (the yoke, the pole, the rod) will be smashed. A Prince of Peace will “confirm and sustain by judgment and justice.” In the letter to Titus we hope for “the appearance of the glory of our great God.” In Luke’s story of the birth, hope is revealed in the birth of a homeless child born in a place for animals. A liberating God is with us in our sinful world and so it is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life. It is good to be set free from all the “isms” that divide us – racism, sexism, materialism, etc.
At the Mass at Dawn, Isaiah announces “Your savior comes!” Therefore, we “shall be called the holy people,” In the letter to Titus we are reminded that it is “because of his mercy” that we “become heirs in hope of eternal life.” The shepherds travel to the child and experience the presence and fulfillment of the promise. God comes to us in a spirit of mercy and so it is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life. It is good that we are able to make that mercy real in our daily lives.
At the Mass during the Day: Isaiah proclaims one who comes with joy and comfort. The letter to the Hebrews reminds us that this message is coming directly from the Son of God. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory.” No matter how bad things are, it is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life. It is good to bring a new message of joy and hope to a broken world.
God invites us to share this message to all who are in need, to all who experience poverty, to all who are oppressed by injustice. With Jesus Christ it is good to be alive. It is good to be human. It is good to be engaged in life. Great things are happening. We are invited to be part of it all.
Last Christmas at the Mass in the Night, Pope Francis put it well: ‘In our personal history too, there are both bright and dark moments, lights and shadows. If we love God and our brothers and sisters, we walk in the light; but if our heart is closed, if we are dominated by pride, deceit, self-seeking, then darkness falls within us and around us.” We are invited to be light.
More Thoughts for your consideration
Christmas celebrates the birth of a child.
Christmas is a celebration of joy and life.
Our social teaching is about joy and life.
We affirm the value of all human life from conception to natural death.
We work to put an end to all those things which destroy life and the quality of life for all.
Christmas calls us to see things in a new way.
We are called to see the salvation of God in a homeless child rather than in wealth, consumption, power, honors, or status of any sort.
We are called to create a world based on the values of this child born in poverty.
The story of Mary, Joseph and the child Jesus is analogous to the experience of many people who are poor and powerless today.
(1) Mary and Joseph are subject to the whims of the powerful as they have to travel to Bethlehem for the census. (2) The Holy Family is homeless when they arrive in Bethlehem. (3) They become refugees in Egypt to escape the danger of death in Israel. (4) As the child is born, most people are going on with their daily lives and do not recognize the presence of God. (5) Only the shepherds are able to detect the presence of God in the child that is born to a homeless family in a stable.
At Christmas time we encounter many temptations. There is the temptation to be sentimental. There is the temptation to get too involved in elaborate gift giving. There is the temptation to focus just on our small circle of family and friends. There is the temptation to make Christmas into a celebration of our prosperity. There is the temptation to impose too many expectations on this holiday and forget what we are celebrating.
The fact that Jesus was born poor and homeless calls us to be aware of these temptations. More than that, the details of Jesus’ birth challenges us to be engaged with those who are poor and powerless today – with those who are living the human experience of poverty or injustice. We are called to reflect on those who are suffering from the realities of violence and death, in war zones or even in our nation.
We are invited to see how the experience of those in the Christmas story is not unlike the experience of millions of refugees and displaced people in our world today, of children born into poverty, of parents who are frustrated by their poverty as they desire to provide for their children, of agricultural workers who have no land of their own, of the poor or unemployed in the US who are losing their benefits, of the those who are homeless, of those who are caught up in the events of war and terrorist acts, of those who lost loved ones in acts of violence, of those who are still among the millions living in some form of slavery, of those who have seen their children killed on the streets of our nation, of those who experience judgments because of their race, of those denied basic human rights, of those whose lives are controlled by the power of large corporations and impersonal governments, of those who go on with their busy lives without any significant awareness of the presence and goodness of God in the ordinary things of life.
As we celebrate Christmas and the birth of the messiah, this story challenges us to look around us and to once again expect to find the messiah in our midst.
Questions for your Faith Sharing Community
In the US culture we experience certain temptations (consumerism, sentimentality, etc.) to distort the central message of Christmas. Which one do you experience most profoundly?
How does this temptation affect you and your family?
When have you celebrated Christmas with “the poor”? What did you learn?
The child born to Mary and Joseph is born into a community with little political power and experiencing oppression and exclusion. What children today seem to be born into such poverty, powerlessness, and exclusion?
Actions - Links
A few years ago around Christmas Steven Colbert did a powerful piece about Jesus:
Check out a series of reflections on Christmas songs/hymns and concerns about justice at:
Read “Racism: America's Cancer” published by Bread for the World at: http://blog.bread.org/2014/12/by-eric-mitchell-i-was-at-a-gathering-of-national-faith-leaders-in-st-louis-mo-last-week-discussing-criminal-justice-re.html?__utma=1.586547685.1396915024.1396915024.1418868630.2&__utmb=184.108.40.2068868630&__utmc=1&__utmx=-&__utmz=1.1418868630.2.1.utmcsr=%28direct%29|utmccn=%28direct%29|utmcmd=%28none%29&__utmv=-&__utmk=83349910
Urge Congress to pass the Global Food Security Act at:
“In The United States, 1 in 6 people struggles with hunger.”
“The wealth of white households was 13 times the median wealth of black households in 2013, compared with eight times the wealth in 2010, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of data from the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Likewise, the wealth of white households is now more than 10 times the wealth of Hispanic households, compared with nine times the wealth in 2010.”
5 Ways Most Americans Are Blind to How Their Country Is Stacked for the Wealthy
Prayers of Intercession
Response: May the child of peace, lead us to peace.
For all who are living the experience of poverty, we pray….
For refugees and other displaced people, we pray….
For all our children, we pray….
For the elderly, we pray….
For those experiencing racial injustice, we pray….
For those who are far from home, we pray….
For an end to the way of violence and war, we pray….
For all those grieving the loss of life, we pray….
For peace and justice for all, we pray….
For genuine joy and peace for all the people, we pray….
“Churches for Middle East Peace” has published A Christmas Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem at http://www.cmep.org .
Like Jesus, we too are drawn to the City of David, the City of Peace. Help us, O God, as we resolve anew to pray and to work for the peace of Jerusalem. Give us the strength, the wisdom and the courage to pursue a pastoral and prophetic ministry. Enable us to be agents of reconciliation and hope in Jerusalem, in our own neighborhoods and throughout the world: through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among others,
To make music in the heart.
Howard Thurman, African-American mystic
The following was written by Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s’ Defense Fund and can be found at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marian-wright-edelman/a-christmas-prayer-to-end_b_152829.html
It is called A Christmas Prayer to End Poverty in Our Time.
As 2.1 billion Christians in our world prepare to celebrate the birth of the most famous poor baby in history, I hope they and all peoples will commit to helping all the poor babies in our rich nation and world find a place in our hearts and at our tables of plenty. At a time when the gap between rich and poor in our nation and the world is at its widest ever, an economic downturn driven by the greed of a few has jeopardized the lives and economic security of all of us. I hope we will all raise a mighty voice to reset our nation's moral and economic compass.
God help us to end poverty in our time.
The poverty of having a child with too little to eat and no place to sleep,
no air, sunlight and space to breathe, bask and grow.
The poverty of watching your child suffer and get sicker and sicker and not knowing
what to do or how to get help because you don't have a car or health insurance.
The poverty of working your fingers to the bone every day taking care of someone else's
children and neglecting your own, and still not being able to pay your bills.
The poverty of having a job that does not let you afford a stable place to live and being terrified
you'll become homeless and lose your children to foster care.
The poverty of losing your job because you cannot find reliable
child care or transportation to work.
The poverty of working all your life caring for others and having to start all over again
caring for the grandchildren you love.
The poverty of earning a college degree, having children, opening a child care center,
and taking home $300 a week or month if you're lucky.
The poverty of loneliness and isolation and alienation--having no one to call or visit, tell you
where to get help, assist you in getting it, or care if you're living or dead.
The poverty of having too much and sharing too little and having the burden of nothing to carry.
The poverty of convenient blindness and deafness and indifference to others,
of emptiness and enslavement to things, drugs, power, violence and fleeting fame.
The poverty of low aim and paltry purpose, weak will and tiny vision, big meetings and
small action, loud talk and sullen grudging service.
The poverty of believing in nothing, standing for nothing, sharing nothing,
sacrificing nothing, struggling for nothing.
The poverty of pride and ingratitude for God's gifts of life and children and family and freedom
and country and not wanting for others what you want for yourself.
The poverty of greed for more and more and more, ignoring, blaming and exploiting
the needy, and taking from the weak to please the strong.
The poverty of addiction to drugs, to drink, to work, to self, to the status quo and to injustice.
The poverty of fear that keeps you from doing the thing you think is right.
The poverty of despair and cynicism.
God help us end poverty in our time in all its faces and places, young and old, rural, urban,
suburban and small town too, and in every color of humans You have made everywhere.
God help us to end poverty in our time in all its guises--inside and out--physical and spiritual,
so that all our and Your children may live the lives that you intend.
From the Facebook page of the Iona Community: