In just a few words this Gospel passage tells us what God gave us for Christmas. “The Word became flesh and lived among us.” There can never be a better gift given. And this exchange of gifts, as described by St Augustine—“God became man, so that man might become God.”
Each time we go to the Eucharist we continue participating in this exchanging of gifts with God. When the presiding priest pours a little water into the wine, he prays: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. We offer up at each celebration bread and wine as an offering, and we then in return receive the Body and Blood of the Lord. This is why we, as Christians, should “remember the dignity that Christmas gives you.” [Pope St Leo]. Christmas, the Incarnation, gives us the best of both worlds! “God became man so that man might become God.”
Christmas takes place just a few days after the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year [making it the longest night of the year]. But on that day of the solstice, the balance of significance begins to shift. Each day will be met with a longer period of light shining, and the night therefore doesn’t last as long. It is the heavens’ way of reminding us, a found in John’s Gospel, that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it.” Christmas IS the birth of He who will call Himself the Light of the World.
Let the light continue to shine in the darkness. Let us rejoice in the coming of our Lord and Savior. Give thanks to God for this great exchange of gifts. The Lord of the angels became man today so that man could eat the break of angels!
If you follow the prayer cycle of the Church you would find that each day morning the Divine Office r ends with this wonderful canticle. There is NEVER at time that it is not included. There might be many things happening in your life, and it might pass you by, or you might fail to see the importance, but this Canticle of Zachary, is a great hymn of gratitude to God. It allows us to discover the spirit around us, and it welcomes the new day-one fill with Love and Compassion of God’s unending Love.
Zachary found a reason to be grateful and to celebrate even though he was, for a moment, struck with a being “dumb” for his disbelief of God’s message. But how can you be full of gratitude all the time? Luke tells us that with the newly reinstated speech, Zachary was “filled with the Holy Spirit.” It is important to know that the way forward is to always look with thanksgiving to what had come before. God had visited the people—“As he promised through the mouth of His Holy Prophets from of old.” Zachary recalls the promise to rescue the people of Abraham from their enemies. This litany leads to a great celebration of those last of the great prophets who “will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.” Zachary’s canticle radiates the new order the high priest’s own son; he will bridge the old and the new. He will become the mouthpiece announcing the coming of the Messiah who is to come.
When you pray the Divine Office in the morning you are collected together with all the people of good will and recall the works of God. You can NEVER have enough gratitude. This path of gratitude is a way of memory, recollecting the past, and creating a path forward to fully recognize God’s mission for each of us.
It is customary that when a child is born, the mother and father pray and give thanks to God for the gift of a new, happy, and healthy life. This is no exception for Zachary and Elizabeth, as they were well beyond their child bearing years, and yet they had been blessed with a baby. Not only were they now blessed with this gift of new life, they were also greeted with the notion that this young baby boy—John—would be someone with an important vocation, “For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” This was reaffirmed as Zachary had been struck “dumb”, but when he finally was able to speak, he spoke of the blessing that God had given to them. God had truly been so good to them, and it was all such a welcomed and joyous gift. They could not have known that the greatest gift of all was soon to be given. The gift of the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ, would soon be upon them and the whole world. He would soon come to begin His mission of salvation.
Sometimes the words of “gratitude” and “thankfulness” are not easily found in our own vocabulary. We often hear people refer to the act of “giving thanks to”, but never do we hear giving thanks because. We forget that at times we fail to be thankful for what God has granted us. When we see others that need more than we—we should not grumble but rather give thanks. When we are interrupted because someone calls, or comes to see us—we should not become irritated, but rather to welcome it as a visit or call from Christ. The Gospels tach us to have gratitude, to come to understand that all we have is a gift from God, and that we should always remain truly grateful for these gifts.
As we usher in the mystery and gift of the birth of Christ, let us try and have the grateful hearts of Elizabeth and Zachary who trusted that God would fulfill His promises to them. May we, like them, remember that God owes us nothing, but He does give us everything!
Luke shares with us a story that “Mary is greatly troubled at what was said” (Lk 1:39). I think that this worry comes from the questions that must be going through her mind for up to this point she has had “no relations with a man” (Lk. 1:34). Even with this worry Mary is able to shake off the worries that surely were coming to her in this instance and doing so with the understanding that God surely had a plan for her, and for this situation. Mary is able to take God at His word, and with that trust the Word made flesh is dwelling within Mary—and is soon to be the Savior of the world.
As Catholics we refer to Mary’s answer to God as her “yes” or “fiat,” which is derived from the verb in Latin—from the phrase “Fiat mihi secundum verbuum tuum” (Lk 1:38). The translation that is most common, and a good understanding of fiat in English is “Let it be.” Being that the ancient language of the Church is Hebrew, you might consider the Hebrew equivalent of fiat to be Amen.
Armed with this knowledge it is easy to understand that when we find ourselves in the line for communion, and before we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we find ourselves in that same mysterious invitation that Mary received in Nazareth. She gave her fiat and the Word is made flesh and she bears in her body the Body of her Savior. We accept the reception of the Eucharist with an Amen before we are to individually bear in our body the Body of our Savior. This is why we are always greeted by the Priest with the words from the angel—“The Lord be with you” (cf. Lk. 1:28)—because it is at this sacrifice that we are also offered the opportunity to choose to carry Christ in our bodies, if we all could only understand this concept fully and would allow it to become our fiat.
God has a plan for each one of us. If we are able to trust in Him and accept the role and plan He has for us we thus take Him at His word ad we give Him our word—of fiat our Amen, our Let it Be—then we shall dwell in him, and He shall dwell in us.
When you think of ordinary people, you do not get much close to the definition than that of Zachariah and wife Elizabeth. But even with ordinary people, as with all people, God has a special plan/role for them. An angel was sent to visit Zachariah. This angel came with a message that Zachariah was not quick to pay attention to—sounds familiar to many of us! After sharing the message Zachariah was rendered mute, unable to speak. So, for nine months he spent waiting for the birth of their child. They may not have known it, but they were VERY much part of God’s plan.
Just like Zachariah and Elizabeth, each one of us are special and that comes with the unique distinction of God having a specific plan and mission for each one of us. We come to find that role through the participation in the Eucharist—the celebration of the Eucharist through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. This is exactly what happens each time that we received the Sacraments. This is God’s gift to us, the presence of Christ.
As you read the Gospels you slowly discover the complete humanity of Christ. Can you picture seeing Christ in a crowd of people, and as you gaze in their eyes and face, you see the image of God? Afterall we were indeed created in the image of God and in his likeness. Christ, God become human, spent his life showing us the human dignity of living in the image and likeness of God. Since Jesus died and rose from the dead, he sent the Spirit to live within us so we can live as Jesus lived, and be his presence in the world which we live. We must take this message and share with others, as we have been given the greatest gift of all.
Zachariah and Elizabeth play a part in the Salvation of the world. We must be grateful that they raised their son, John, who was meant to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah!
A more exact statement is to; Do Not Be Afraid! And we are indeed blessed with four different accounts of the Birth of Jesus. Each of the Gospel narratives have their own theology, creating a unique and somewhat different point of view. In this Year A, we come across Matthew’s encounter with the birth of Jesus. It is important to note and understand that Matthew was writing for a Jewish community—which is why he begins with the male aspect of the family, St. Joseph. Matthew places emphasis on the fact that Joseph is a man that is suffering from the news that Mary is indeed pregnant. And that it is not biologically of his line. Joseph is at a crossroads. What should he do? When we look at Luke’s account, which is at contrast, Mary becomes the central figure. Her fiat from the question posed by the Archangel Gabriel – this narrative is a much different angle of the story of the incarnation. You can see how the different accounts take on new meaning depending on which “lens” one looks through: In Matthew it is through the lens of Joseph, and in Luke’s account it is through Mary’s. The result is in fact the same, the one central difference is that instead of an excited young girl happy to give birth to the Messiah, we get the image of a man who is slightly shocked and saddened that his soon to be bride is pregnant. The one centralized focal point, and point of “unity” in the two differing account is when the angel says to Joseph, as when Gabriel said unto Mary, DO NOT BE AFRAID!
Matthew proclaims a lineage/ancestry of sorts for Jesus. This is not so that Jesus might be able to discover or come to discover things about his ancestors (human family), but rather so that we might come to better understand things about Christ that we should understand. Matthew speaks to us so that we can better understand who Jesus is from understanding HIS roots. This is accomplished in the opening words that are proclaimed, and then follows Christ’s “genealogy”—The Son of David- Son of Abraham. (It is in the Gospel of St Luke that this lineage is traced back even further, to Adam and Eve).
Matthew initially is proclaiming this message to Jewish Christians, bringing the news that Christ has been sent to fulfill the promises that were made to Abraham, the promise that came to David and to all those in his house. If, for Luke, Jesus the Christ is, more than Adam and infinitely more truly, the Son of God, for Matthew, Jesus the Christ is the fulfillment in human history of that salvation which began with Abraham. This is all presented to us through the coming of Christ, whom in indeed the Son of God and truly is the Son of Abraham, David, and of Mary.
We must reflect and remember that this lineage belongs to each one of us. For we each as Christians are reborn in and into Christ. The identity given and imposed on us in this fallen world, and through the history of sin, is abolished and washed clean. Our true nature and our purity is given once again to us through the rebirth into Christ – restoring us as a child of God.