The Nativity of the Lord (Mass during the night)
(Isaiah 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14)
Latinos have a pre-Christmas tradition called “Las Posadas.” In it half of a group takes the roles of Joseph and Mary in tonight’s gospel. They stand as if they were outside an inn asking for a place to stay. The other half of the group stands as if they were the innkeepers inside. The inn being full and the innkeepers tired, they tell Mary and Joseph to go away. Then Joseph happens to mention that his wife is “Mary, the queen of heaven.” The innkeepers recognize that name and happily open the door to welcome the Holy Family.
Of course, this beautiful tradition does not correspond completely to the gospel proclaimed tonight. Evidently Joseph and Mary did seek lodging at an inn, but they were turned down. Also, the gospel’s emphasis is on the “manger,” not the inn. This feeding trough for animals is mentioned three times in course of a rather short narration. It needs to be asked, “Why?”
In the very first chapter of the Book of the Isaiah the prophet castigates the people of Israel with reference to a manger. He says, “An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger, but Israel does not know (its God).” The gospel tonight shows the new-born Jesus being laid in a manger. There finally Israel will recognize its God. But there may be more here than that. Presenting the God-man as being born outside a building, the gospel suggests that Jesus is the God not just of human beings but of all creation. When the angels sing, “’…and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,’” they may have in mind more than men and women but animals, plants, and lifeless beings as well.
Today we give thanks to God for coming to show us how to live in peace with all. First and foremost, we follow his way of reconciliation with fellow human beings. We want to love others as God has been so kind and merciful to us that He sent us His Son as our savior. We also care for our environment. We want to nurture it so that it may provide sustenance and wonder for many generations to come.