Christmas Midnight Mass : Isaiah 9:1-7; Titus 2:11-14; Gospel Lk 2:1-14
The Gift of Christmas - the Joy, Hope and Peace of the Christ-Child within

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at St Joseph Church, Victoria Street – Singapore
on 24 December 2015

Tonight, together with some two billion or more Christians around the world we celebrate Christmas.  This is the celebration of what the angels in St Luke’s Gospel which we just heard proclaimed described as “the first-born of Mary . . . wrapped in swaddling clothes . . . lying in a manger . . . in the town of David . . . a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.”

Tonight’s First Reading of the Prophet Isaiah too proclaims, “the people that walked in darkness has seen a great light . . . You have made their gladness greater, and their joy increase as they rejoice in your presence. . .”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, “What light is Prophet Isaiah referring to that will dispel the darkness of our lives and bring greater gladness and joy to our hearts and homes?  Would the latest Apple iPad Air2 model costing about $1,000 or better still a $10,000 diamond ring or perhaps a $20,000 two weeks cruise on a luxury liner give us that “light” and bring us the “greater gladness and joy to our hearts and home”? 

Would many of us here not be thrilled and overjoyed if we were to receive any of these as a Christmas gift?  If I were to ask, which gift would you prefer, some of us may say, “I would prefer to have all the three of them!  I would like to go for the two weeks luxury cruise; take photos with my new apple iPad and my new diamond ring on my finger? 

However, my sisters and brothers in Christ, you and I know that the “Light” that Prophet Isaiah is referring to is not these external lights and joys that draw us into and feed our materialistic desires.  In fact, we all know that if we are not careful, such materialistic desires can create a greater darkness that is blinding instead of enlightening us in the darkness of our lives. 

There is a story of Jack who worked very hard just to be able to provide a very simple home and food for his family.  In this particular year a few days before Christmas, Jack was particularly upset with his five year old daughter, Lucy when he saw her use the expensive gold paper to wrap a present she had put under the Christmas tree.  

However, on the morning of Christmas Day, Lucy filled with excitement and great pride, brought the present she had wrapped to her father and said, "Daddy, this is for you!"

Jack was deeply touched; he did not expect that the gift was for him.  He began to feel somewhat regretful for being upset with Lucy for using up the only precious gold paper, when after all the present was intended for him.  As Jack was opening the present, he was feeling somewhat puzzled because they clearly would not have any money to buy any gifts.  Yet, Jack was also feeling excited and joyful as to what his dear daughter had given him.  When he finally opened the box, he found it was empty. Jack was silent for a moment and feeling somewhat disappointed, asked Lucy, “I know we have no money, but why do you have to play such a cruel joke on Daddy?”

Little Lucy looked up at her daddy and with sad tears rolling down her cheeks said, "Daddy, it's not empty.  Mom said we have no money to buy each other any gifts.  So, we blew kisses from our hearts into the box and filled it with our love until it was full.  So, daddy, our Christmas present for you is mommy’s love and my love for you; the box is not empty, we know you work very hard every day because you love us so much . . . mommy and I love you very much too.”

By now Jack’s eyes were filled with tears and he hugged Lucy and his dear wife . . . they all began to cry; but there was deep joy in their hearts because they all knew how much they loved each other . . . For Jack, knowing that his love was not taken for granted by his dear child and wife brought him great joy and deep consolation.  For Jack, it was truly one of the most beautiful Christmas he had celebrated.  This is because for all of them, Jack says, “God is real; God the Christ-Child is truly alive in their home.”

Sadly, two weeks after Christmas, Lucy met with a tragic accident that took her life.  Jack and his wife were devastated.  Two years later Jack’s dear wife also died.  In his great suffering, pain and loneliness, Jack would regularly open the box, and breathe in the “love of his dear daughter and wife” to keep him going. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, when we reflect on Jack’s life, we can see that even as he was living in the darkness of his poverty and had to work so hard to bring up his family, his daughter’s and wife’s love for him gave him much inspiration.  And more so, when he was enveloped in the darkness of his daughter’s and wife’s death, the memories of their love, and the divine meaning of Christ at Christmas, gave him the needed strength and even joy, hope and peace to live in the divine “Light” that dispelled the darkness of his sufferings. Now, being alone in his home, Jack’s consolation and joy is knowing in faith that he is not alone.  His daughter and dear wife who are living in God’s eternal Light and Glory, are filling his heart and home with their love. 

What about us?  How then can we keep this “Light of Christ” at Christmas shining brightly and His Love ablaze in our hearts?  Our Second Reading of St Paul’s Letter to Titus tonight says, “God has made Salvation possible for the whole human race . . . and taught us to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all worldly ambitions . . . we must live self-restrained and good lives here in this present world . . .”

In doing so, we can then with much peace in our heart and with Prophet Isaiah that “a Child born for us,. . . and the name given to Him is Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace.  Wide is His dominion in a peace that has no end.” 

This means that the “greatest gift” that we can give to each other at Christmas is the “Light of the Christ-Child” that is waiting to be born in our heart at Christmas tonight.  This is the gift of ourselves to others; this is the gift of our sincere and committed love that is present in our hearts thatis waiting to shine forth to dispel the darkness, especially of those whom we know are going through much pain and suffering. 

To conclude, let us remind ourselves that Christ is not just born to us on Christmas.  You and I need to keep the Christ-Light burning within our hearts and homes, so that we will each be Christ’s Light that dispels the darkness of pain and sorrow, confusion and suffering around us.  The Light of Christ within us must not grow dim. We could each daily renew our love for Jesus by praying this prayer or any similar prayer from our hearts:

Dear Lord, Your Presence
fills me with joy.
It is my earnest desire
to direct all my efforts,
physical and mental,
during prayer
solely to Your greater glory.

Father, I want You
to be the Centre of my being.
Deepen in me this desire
so that I may be fully united
with You, my Creator and Master,
at all times and in all places.

I want to praise You
and bring You honour
all the days of my life.
Increase my spirit of generosity:
Make me large-hearted enough
to freely offer You
all that I am and have,
so that You may use me
in whichever way You please,
and enable me
to do Your Holy Will
in all things
in a spirit of loving service. 

My brothers and sisters, when we are able to pray fervently like this and live out such prayers daily, the Christ-Child of Christmas will truly be born in the manger of our hearts and the stable of our homes, not only at Christmas, but daily and for all peoples.  What would our response be to Jesus tonight? 

(Ref: Story is Adapted from: www.WantToKnow.info; “Happiness Manufacturers, by Hedwig Lewis, S.J., Pub: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, India; 2001: p.23.)

Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.

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