Midnight Christmas Mass has its own unique characteristics and "feel". Of course, we rejoice tonight at the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And the "theme" of every Mass is the death and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, this is a vigil, and thus we gather tonight at this hour of darkness to wait together. We join our ancestors who waited in the darkness, and we join our brothers and sisters today as we wait in joyful hope for Christ's triumphant return. On this night we would do well to reflect on the words of the hymn, "O Holy Night", especially the lines: "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth". Our life makes complete sense in light of the Incarnation. As we wait, we rejoice tonight!
Even though we are just days away from celebrating Christmas, we still find ourselves in the beautiful season of Advent -- a time of waiting and preparing for the Lord. The scene of the Visitation of Mary and Elizabeth in the Gospel is one of great joy and wonder, and we would do well to contemplate and imitate the faith and exuberance of these holy women. In the second reading -- from the Letter to the Hebrews -- we are reminded why the Incarnation was necessary. God took flesh and was born of Mary so that he could offer a perfect sacrifice in obedience, which would bring salvation to the world. This eternal gift begins for us at Christmas, the feast we look forward to celebrating very soon.
During Advent we prepare to receive our Lord. God comes to us not "once upon a time", or "in a galaxy far, far away", but in a specific moment in history and in a specific place. St. Luke places his coming within historical events sot that we may know that Jesus Christ really and truly came in the flesh. Imagine: God loves us so much that He opened the heavens and came down to live among us! We celebrate his true and abiding presence even today, in every Mass. God is with us.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We proclaim and believe that God, in His goodness and love, preserved Mary from all stain of sin from the moment of her conception -- thus preparing her to be a worthy vessel for God's Son. In this liturgy we adore our God and thank God for the redemption of the world, wrought by the death and resurrection of His Son. May we, like Mary, strive for holiness and purity, so that we also may constantly say "Yes" to our God.