Maria Kozakiewicz

WORD MADE FLESH

Christmas Midnight Mass – December 24, 2015
Isaiah 9.2-4, 6-7 | Psalm 96 | Titus 2.11-14 | Luke 2.1-16
December 21, 2015

You will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

I need Christmas - as most of us do - and I need it in winter. We, dwellers of the Northern Hemisphere who have been slipping into darkness for weeks, crave light and joy. Maybe that is why Christmas lights begin to shine right after Remembrance Day. Decency would have it wait till Dec. 24 - but who has the patience?

So, in the middle of winter night we suddenly experience the light, love and warmth of faith richly embellished by tradition. In my case, it is the Polish tradition, inherited from my ancestors.

I love tradition and all my adult life I have tried to follow it to the letter, no matter how hard it was. Strict fast on 24th. Christmas tree brought in and dressed - not a day earlier. Nativity set brought next. A handful of hay placed under the white tablecloth. A single, unoccupied seat for an unexpected guest (or Christ himself).

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing . . . which the Lord has made known to us. - Luke 2.15

'Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing . . . which the Lord has made known to us.'

Luke 2.15

Then comes the reading of St. Luke's account of Christ's birth followed by prayer and the sharing of a church-blessed wafer (not Holy Communion, as some think) with everyone.

Feast next, with the 13 (no more or less) meatless dishes; everything cooked according to old recipes handed down from mother to daughter through generations. Three kinds of cake, nuts and oranges to follow.

Only then comes the unwrapping of presents that have waited under the tree.

Finally, Midnight Mass.

This is a full plate of faith cum tradition. Without strong faith and strict obedience to the Church, such lovely, time-honoured tradition tends to take over and eventually replaces faith itself.

Eliminations and substitutions are gradual. First goes family prayer and Bible reading - usually "for the sake of this one guest who is not religious." Then goes the sharing of the blessed wafer - "awkward."

Next goes the Midnight Mass - "too late, too tiring and the kids too excited with their presents." Sometimes the Nativity set also disappears - "no place for it anywhere, so many boxes and bags with presents."

So Christ vanishes, the mystery of his coming is sidelined and we are left with a pre-lit tree that loses lights, a pile of dirty dishes to wash and stomach problems from overeating.

We are constantly reminded that Christmas is about Christ - and those who greeted him in this world: Mary and Joseph. Neither of them had it easy on this holy night. They were tired, cold and probably hungry, too. They were homeless. Mary gave birth to God's Son in horrible conditions.

So whenever God gives us the grace of being poor, lonely, sick or heartbroken on this night of nights, we should not complain. Instead, we should give thanks that he considers us to be worthy to share in his suffering.

Christmas is not about the tree or presents or tradition - it is about God among us, God bringing us salvation.