Christmas Eve 2012 – Children’s Mass – December 24, 2012 – Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
CHRISTMAS EVE 2012
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll. S. J.
The Roman Emperor decrees that all of the world should be registered. This decree “in those days” suggests a time and era that is passing and will shortly end. That which has been will soon be finished. What will take its place will soon be evident. Although we do not witness a hurricane and a tidal wave that washes over beach houses and smashes them to kindling, still the new time effects a change in humans, and the change causes just as much difference in men and women. In August, you went swimming to cool off in the hot sunshine; tonight or tomorrow you may be wearing mittens and throwing snow balls. Just so, the new time evidences radical shifts from the old time. People change.
In the old time, Caesar Augustus reigns. A legion of employees will do whatever he decides. Quirinius, appointed by Caesar Augustus, runs affairs in Syria, a country not so far from Jerusalem. The people of Galilee and Judea disliked being a conquered nation, humans subjected to a distant emperor with laws made in a distant land. People in Israel receive their religious laws from Moses; he gave the people the Ten Commandments. These are religious do’s and don’ts, yet they are laws.
At that old time, people feared hunger and disease, and they feared death. When a person died, relatives hired professional mourners to come to the house of the deceased; these mourners would cry and groan out loud; the tears would come down their cheeks and they would tear their clothes. People feared cemeteries and death as the end of all life.
But the new time is coming. Joseph and Mary must travel from the state of Galilee into the state of Judea, from the town of Nazareth to the town of Bethlehem. Joseph must go there to enroll; one must do that to pay the family tax and to list the men for possible service in the Emperor’s army. Joseph enrolled, even though Jews were exempted from the army of Rome.
The new time begins. “While [Joseph and Mary] were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her first born son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Who is this babe who brings in the new time? “The world came to exist through him…. He came to his own [created humans]… and to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God…to those who believe in his name, who are born…of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:10-14).
In this new time, “He came to his own.” When we go to school or go to Macy’s Department Store, or visit people in Seattle, we find it best to be among our own family members. Well, the creator, this babe, comes to us whom he calls his own. God has created us with an understanding and power to choose; in these abilities, we resemble our Creator, and we are little less than the angels. We are God’s people, and we are His own.
In this new time, a knowledge and love of God and the rule of justice will bring about the peaceful kingdom. True, this is idyllic, and it suggests a godliness in human affairs for which we long.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
the cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
…. For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
In this new time, we begin such a knowledge that reflects a time in the Garden of Eden.
In this new time, “there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.” Shepherds lived in squalor, among animals, and they never went to school and they smelled like the animals. City people wanted shepherds to stay in the fields, to dwell away from ordinary folk.
“The angel of the Lord appeared to the [shepherds] and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with fear.” Of course they were afraid. A low flying plane scares us, and an earthquake scares us. These shepherds were scared by the sudden brightness that shined in the nighttime around them.
The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy. Glory to God in the highest.”
In this new time, the shepherds hear the good news of a God-person. This is God among them. God dwells with them. If other people reject them, God wants them. Such good news causes a quiet joy, a gladness among them. Frowns and fears relax into smiles and a sense of one’s own importance.
So the [shepherds] went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them.
The new time begins with Christmas. Our Lord, our Savior lives and dwells among us. With the shepherds, we rejoice in these glad tidings. Amen.