FIRST READING Isaiah 9:1-6
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, as they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as people make merry when dividing spoils. For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, and the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian. For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames. For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over his kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this!
SECOND READING Titus 2:11-14
Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.
GOSPEL Luke 2:1-14
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “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.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,
In the midst of darkness, we have seen a great light! Christ is born for us, alleluia! Christ is our light forever! God has shattered the darkness of night with the light of His Son, Jesus Christ!
The first reading at this midnight Mass is from the Prophet Isaiah. We can only identify with this reading if we have personally walked in darkness and know the challenges of darkness or if we know someone who has this experience. For the Prophet Isaiah, it was the whole people of Israel or at least the remnant of those who had been taken into captivity.
The challenge for us tonight is to long for the light, to long for freedom from all that oppresses us and all that keeps us from God in any way. We are invited to long with our whole being for God’s presence in every aspect of our lives.
The second reading comes from the Letter to Titus. This passage tells us clearly that God has appeared so that we can know “Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.” Again, we must want to be free from lawlessness and we must want to be cleanses so that we are eager to do what is good.
Only in the Gospel from Saint Luke do we come to see clearly how all of this will come about: through the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Yes, even here, the clarity is only possible if we open our eyes in faith. We must see through the darkness to the light that God is giving us.
We recognize on this Holy Night that even after centuries of knowing Jesus Christ, our world still wanders in darkness. Even after proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, our hearts are not yet converted completely to Him and our world even less so. We humans are a broken people and each of us is broken.
Tonight is Christmas! The birth of the Savior. We can rejoice, even though we are broken because the Savior is born. We can rejoice even if we do not always respond so well to our Savior because we recognize that the Savior has come to us and will make us free. All we need do is rejoice in the Savior and trust in Him as much as we can. God wants us free. God sends the Savior to give us freedom. This is a freedom from darkness so that we can live in the light. This is a freedom from our sinfulness so that we can live in His grace. This is a freedom that is won for us by Jesus Christ.
So no matter how terrible our lives may seem, no matter how enmeshed we may find ourselves in sin, no matter what bad circumstances we may find ourselves in—let us rejoice because the door to heaven is open, the door to living just and pious lives even in this world is open: God’s love has come to earth and we can rejoice now and forever.
Let us walk in the light of our Savior.
Your brother in the Lord,