Christmas Eve 2021
December 24 evokes many good memories for me. I think back to my childhood and the magic connected with this day. It was almost impossible to get to sleep because of the anticipation of what would happen the next day. I realize that I must have drifted off, because I never recall being aware of the activity going on in the living room: the setting out of gifts that had been carefully hidden somewhere in the house (to this day, I have no idea where in the small house they were stored!), getting everything lined up, and my parents likely making sure that all seven of the children were getting an equal number of presents to tear open at dawn.
The Gospel for the Ferial Mass of December 24 features the Canticle of Zechariah. It includes one of my favourite verses: By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. That is a relevant verse to prepare us for the shift from Advent to Christmas.
These winter days are physically dark. There is something magical about darkness when it is imbued with a sense of the sacred, when we are not fearful of the darkness. I think of a line from a Bruce Cockburn song, Pacing the Cage, sometimes the darkness is your friend. With Christmas Day, we move to a celebration of the light that has come into the world with the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Regardless of whether you celebrate at Midnight Mass, the Mass at Dawn, or Mass During the Day, you will encounter images of light. Isaiah speaks of how, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light: those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shone.
At the Mass during the Day, Isaiah reminds us about the effects of this new light, In plain sight they see the return of the Lord to Zion. Luke’s proclamation of the birth of Jesus features the glory of the Lord shining around the shepherds. Psalm 97 reminds us, A light will shine on us this day: The Lord is born for us. John’s Gospel proclaims the life of God that is the light of the human race. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John the Baptist comes to testify to the true light
Christmas invites each of us to be that light, to become light for others. We are all aware of the tremendous need for that light shining in the dark places of our lives and our world. How much we need that transformation in our world! Whatever the dark corners, the Light of Christ can shed new life. May this Christmas Eve help you with your spiritual preparation for the reception of light!