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Christmas Gospels tell story of wondrous miracle
Based on the Gospels of Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:1-25, Luke 2:1-14 and 2:15-20, John 1:1-18
“Once upon a time.” The Gospel readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the Christmas Eve Vigil Mass and the Masses of Christmas Day tell the beautiful story of the wondrous Christmas miracle.
“Hail Mary: Gentle Woman.” The Archangel Gabriel comes to Mary and says, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Startled, Mary listens as Gabriel continues, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have been blessed by God. You are going to have a baby and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of God.” Mary asks, “How can this be?” Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of God will cover you, and the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Trusting in God, Mary says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
“What Child is This?” Joseph, a good, just man, is engaged to Mary. He learns Mary is pregnant. All his plans for their life together are shattered. Joseph is about to break their engagement when something surprising happens. An angel appears to Joseph in a dream and says, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph, like Mary, trusts God, so he does as the angel told him.
“O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Because the Roman emperor wanted a census taken, Mary and Joseph have to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem and register for this count because Joseph belongs to the family of David. The four- or five-day trip of more than 70 miles is long and uncomfortable for Mary riding on the back of a donkey.
“Away in a Manger.” Arriving in Bethlehem, there is no room for them in the inn. This means no rest from the long, rough trip, no warm food, no help to care for the animal and belongings, no baby clothing woven by Mary and no cradle made by Joseph. Mary and Joseph have to stay in a cave-like stable where Jesus is born in a manger used for feeding animals. Cold, very little light, and only slight protection from the nightly weather changes are part of their stay in this rough, crude animal shelter.
“The First Noel.” An angel startles shepherds spending the night in the fields watching their sheep. The angel says, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a Savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a host of angels sing, “Glory to God in the highest….
The humble shepherds go to Bethlehem where they find Jesus, Mary and Joseph, just as the angel said. Jesus, the Word of God, the Light of the World, is born and lives among us.
“O Holy Night!” There in that cave-like stable is what Christmas is all about; there is Love: a Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, the First Gift of Christmas – the Savior of the World! “O come let us adore Him!”