First Reading: Isa 62: 1-5; Psalm: 89. R. v. 2a; Second Reading: Acts 13:16-17. 22-25; Gospel: Mt 1:1-25
AWAY FROM THE MANGER
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
On this night, we celebrate the birth of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. We read today from the account of Matthew how this remarkable event took place. But if you asked me, I would say that we are more familiar with Luke’s narrative regarding the saviour’s birth because it appears more detailed and sounds more interesting. The birth of Jesus according to the account of Luke took place at night in a manger which makes this vigil Mass even more meaningful and explains the early Christian’s tradition of celebrating Christmas from the sundown of the 24th to the sundown of the 25th. Matthew’s account on the other hand, did not specify when and where Christ was born but only started with a lengthy genealogy and suddenly ended with Christ’s birth.
Matthew introduced his account thus, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” And then went on to mention different ancestries. The tracing of this ancestral line was important because no human being existed without a lineage. Matthew’s genealogy thus explains that Jesus though God, has a lineage as man. This lineage stretched across 42 generations beginning from Abraham through David to Jesus Christ. Matthew was not referring to the blood lineage of Jesus through Mary, but the legal lineage of Jesus through Joseph. So Jesus has a lineage just like anyone of us. And this is why he is legally called “the Son of David.”
Although the gospel of Matthew did not mention exactly where Christ was born; it however stated that a star led the wise men to a house where Mary and the baby Jesus was. And that the wise men entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother and fell down and worshipped him presenting their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (Mt 2:10-11). Luke’s account mentioned a manger as Christ’s birth place (Lk 2:7). Matthew’s account mentioned a house (Mt 2:11). But whose house exactly is what we do not know. We were not told if it was the house of Joseph or the house of someone else.
The undisclosed identity of this house where Jesus was born makes Matthew’s account very handy for us to leverage on. Unlike Matthew’s account, Luke’s account created so much gap between us and the baby Jesus. It presented an exclusive world that was not ready to accommodate Jesus the new born child. Luke’s narrative took the baby Jesus away from the human environs and harboured him in a manger. It was as if Jesus was not meant for our homes or that we refused him a home when he came. But the account of today’s gospel consoles us. Matthew narrated that Jesus was born in a house. And not disclosing in whose house Jesus was born, leaves open our chance of claiming this unknown house as our own.
So, tonight, Matthew does not want us to picture or imagine that Jesus was born in a manger. He wants us to feel that Jesus was born in a house. And that house could be yours or mine. This should make this year’s Christmas special to us. Jesus was not born somewhere there in a manger but in our houses. We were the first to welcome him and not those animals in the manger. And Isaiah’s message in the first reading of tonight would now make more sense to us. God rejoices over us as a bridegroom rejoices over her bride (Is 62:5). God’s divine marriage with us through the mystery of the incarnation should be a marriage celebrated in a place very close to us. Ordinarily, a bridegroom seeks the bride in her home.
So, as we go home tonight, let us not think that we left the baby Jesus by the Church somewhere in a manger. The new born king is there in our homes and wants to reign there forever. He is now the head of our homes just as a bridegroom is the head of his house. And if so, we should allow Jesus to build our homes. So, this Christmas is a Christmas of love because the essence of God is love. Love should reign in our homes and from there extend to the larger society. For what is the need to learn to love from God when it cannot be shared.
Don’t celebrate this Christmas with grudges, anger and hatred in your heart. This would be like shutting your door against the baby Jesus; for these ill feelings opposes love. Forgive whoever might have wronged you knowingly or unknowingly. Share gifts not only with friends and families but also with those in need. Check your phone contacts; you may find someone you have not phoned for a very long time. Your phone call or text message could make their Christmas a memorable one. Just use every opportunity you have to share love. Because love was the very reason Christ came to dwell among us. And this love should begin from our homes.
Have a Blessed Christmas.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
God our Father, we thank you for the gift of the baby Jesus. Help us to open our doors to him to come in and reign in our lives and homes. Amen.