Advent, a penitential season in preparation for the coming of Christ, celebrates its last Sunday mass today. In a few days The Christmas season begins on the day of Our Lord’s birth, our Savior, and ending at the celebration of Jesus Christ’s baptismal, Sunday, January 9, 2022. The word itself, “Christmas,” means Christ’s mass or the Mass of Christ. Christ is the Light of the World and He comes to bring us out of darkness.
Man had known for centuries that there will be “good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11). In the audio The True Meaning of Christmas, Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979) presents a detailed argument that he refers to as the “argument of prophecy, or prediction.” He stresses that “we are never to abdicate human reason. … Or lose sight that we are in history.” Sheen cites a Jewish scholar who became a Christian. The scholar disclosed that he worked with other rabbis and they concluded that there are 456 prophecies proclaiming there will be a Savior and a Redeemer, a “conqueror of evil who was to be born in the long line of Israel.” Sheen continues that all 456 prophecies have been fulfilled. “If all the prophecies, what is the chance of all of them concurring in place and times as foretold by Daniel?” Sheen asks that the listener write down 1/84 on a sheet of paper and add 126 zeroes next to the 84. That is the chance that all 456 prophecies of Christ being fulfilled. “When Christ appeared he said, ‘I am the one the prophets foretold. … You have heard of me before.’”
In an unadorned stable the Holy Child is born. God’s own Son’s birth as man is in extreme poverty, and it is His Son who will die on the cross for the salvation of all men and women. St. Ignatius tells us that God is teaching us at this moment that we need to practice our own poverty. We must meet our Savior with humility and trusting faith as the shepherds did. The “Wise Men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.’” (Matthew 2:1-2). They brought gifts that symbolize the greatness of the Christ child as gold illustrates kingship, myrrh exemplifies the Son of God as man, and the incense announces the Christ child to be God. The shepherds and the wisemen themselves are symbolic as the shepherds signify the chosen people of Israel and the wisemen represent the Gentiles. All men throughout the world can experience the grace of God.
Sheen continues his analysis with an attentive and reverent description of the birth of Christ.
Because he was born in a cave, all must bend or stoop, and the stoop is the mark of humility. …
Those who are willing to bend their egos and go into that cave … they are in a universe where sits a babe on his mother’s lap. The babe that made the world. Shepherds and wisemen came to visit him. Shepherds, they who know they know nothing. Wisemen, they who know they do not know everything.
Music is a beautiful way to spiritually experience the arrival of Our King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Both words and the music itself communicates a magnificent tone in The Messiah written by George Frederic Handel in 1741 during the baroque period. The Messiah is an artistic form of Christ’s human redemption, from the Proclamation of Christ’s birth to Christ’s Ascension into Heaven. Handel selected texts from the Old and New Testament, and The Messiah has been a Christmas favorite (although it was written for the Lent and Easter season) for years. Some of the prophecies that Sheen refers to are included in this masterful piece in Part I of three parts. The Old Testament texts come from a number of books including: Isaiah, Haggai, Malachi, and Zechariah. Luke and Matthew are cited in the angel’s announcement that “Christ is born.”
The Hallelujah Chorus, using text from the Book of Revelation, is what most people are familiar with. Supposedly when Handel completed the chorus, he stated that he saw God seated on his throne surrounded by angels in heaven. The Greatness of God sending his Son down to earth as man can never be diminished but only glorified:
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given,
And the government shall be upon His shoulder:
And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
It is also important to hear the grandiose words ending the second act:
Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdoms of this world is become the kingdoms of our Lord,
And of His Christ: and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Let us not get caught up in the busyness and commercialism of Christmas this year but take time to prepare our own hearts by carving out time to reflect on Scripture, enjoy the many devotional Christmas carols and hymns and other artistic forms exemplifying the beauty of the birth of our Lord. The Prince of Peace is upon us. Our attention must be focused on our faith and trust in God. Know that God’s door is open for all to come. God is waiting to carry you through and welcome you to the celebration of the birth of His Son, our Redeemer and Savior, during Christ’s Mass. The reality is, Christ is our King, our only King, and He shall reign for ever and ever over all the kingdoms throughout all of eternity.
This is a companion piece to two previously published articles:
Image: Adoration of the Magi by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), a Flemish Baroque painter. It is now in the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.
Biblical References cited from The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible The New Testament, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition with Introduction, Commentary, and Notes by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch, 2010.
The True Meaning of Christmas audio recording is available at The Formed, published by The Augustine Institute.