Homily for the 8 o’clock Mass, Christmas Day, 25 December 2018

We tend to think that Jesus saves us, redeems us, reconciles us to God, heals us, raises us up, takes away our sins, washes us clean, divinises us, above all by his saving death. And we’re right to do so! It’s true!! He does! But according to Catholic thought, Christ’s death is, as it were, the apex, the focal point, the culmination of what he came to do for us. But he was doing it in every moment of his human life. Therefore every aspect of Christ’s life - or as we say, each of the “mysteries” of Christ’s life - is significant for our salvation, or is salvific for us. This applies very much so, of course, to the mystery of his birth of a Virgin in Bethlehem.

In being born as a baby, Jesus the Son of God has in principle touched every baby, every human being. He unites himself to every baby, and unites every baby to himself. Why so? The ancient Fathers of the Church loved to say: he became what we are, in order that we might become what he is. He united himself to our humanity, in order that we might be united to his divinity. So the infant Jesus makes himself one with us, in our flesh, in our fragility, in our vulnerability, in our littleness, in our dependence. In principle, there is no one at all who has ever lived who is not touched by the mystery of Christmas. By his human birth, Jesus has demonstrated, made concrete, manifest, uncontrovertible, God’s love for every human being. And divine love is invested of course with divine power. So every baby who has ever been becomes in a sense an Icon, or living image of the Son of God. Every baby is somehow touched by the holiness of Jesus, and declared as uniquely precious to God, and destined or set towards eternal life in him.

Of course there is more to be said than this. Jesus will indeed grow up, preach, perform miracles, institute the holy Eucharist, be betrayed, suffer, shed his blood and die, as an efficacious sacrifice that takes away our sins. Still, doing all that is only working out, making clearly visible, in the most fully appropriate way, what he has already done, radically, by being born.

Also of course there is need for our reception of all this: for faith and baptism into the mystery of Jesus. Still, already by lying in the manger at Bethlehem, Jesus is carrying out the work of our redemption: in principle for everyone who has ever lived, or who ever will live.

If Jesus came to save us all, he came in a special way, with a sort of priority, for the poor. The shepherds in St. Luke’s story are important witnesses to this. In New Testament times shepherds occupied the bottom layer of society. They were people on the edge, barely recognised as belonging in the company of normal decent people; dirty, uneducated, nomadic, ritually unclean. So it was shepherds who were the first to hear the message of joy, and to witness its truth, and to give glory to God for what they saw and heard. Lying in his manger, Jesus made himself on a level with them: a nobody, with nothing; sharing accommodation with the animals; on the edge of society, and even on the edge of survival. Yet he was God, and Angels sang at his birth, and his birth is limitlessly good news for all ages, and a cause of great and endless joy for all of us.

How to enter this mystery of Christmas? How to understand what it is that God has done for us, for me, in the birth of Jesus? There can be no better way than with and through his Virgin Mother. No one was more intimately involved in this mystery than she. No one pondered it more deeply than she, or understood it better. Also, no one has been more fully redeemed by Jesus than she. Teach us, then, O blessed Virgin, how to enter into, how to respond to this mystery. Teach us how to love Jesus; how to adore him; how to worship him as God. Teach us how to accept and receive all that he came to give us: and how to pass that on to others.




After Communion:


Nativity Story by Nicholas Allen


There was once an innkeeper of Bethlehem who particularly valued a good night’s sleep.


One night there was a knock at the door.

“No room” said the innkeeper.

“But we’re tired and have travelled through night and day.”

“There’s only a stable around the back. Here’s two blankets. Sign the register.”

So they signed: “Mary and Joseph.”

Then the innkeeper shut the door, climbed the stairs, got into bed, and went to sleep.


But then, later, there was another knock on the door.

“Excuse me. I wonder if you could lend us another, smaller, blanket.”

“There. Another smaller blanket”, said the innkeeper.

Then he shut the door, climbed the stairs, got into bed, and went back to sleep.


But then a bright light woke him up.

“That’s all I need”, said the innkeeper.

He closed the curtains tight, got back into bed, and went to sleep.


But then there was another knock at the door.

“We are three shepherds.”

“Well what’s the matter? Lost your sheep?”

“We’ve come to see Mary and Joseph.”

“AROUND THE BACK” said the innkeeper.

Then he shut the door, climbed the stairs, got into bed, and went back to sleep.


But then there was yet ANOTHER knock at the door.

“We’re three kings. We’ve come...” “AROUND THE BACK” shouted the innkeeper.

He slammed the door, climbed the stairs, got back into bed, and went to sleep.


But then a chorus of angels, singing a Halleluia chorus right outside his window, woke him up again.

“All right - that does it!” shouted the innkeeper. He got out of bed, stomped down the stairs, threw open the door, went round the back, stormed into the stable, and was just about to speak, when

“SHHHH” whispered everyone. “You’ll wake the baby.”

“Baby?” said the innkeeper.

“Yes, a baby has been born this night.”


“Oh,” said the innkeeper looking crossly into the manger.

And just at that moment, suddenly, amazingly, his anger seemed to fly away.

“Oh,” said the innkeeper. “Isn’t he beautiful!”

In fact, he thought the baby was so special, that he woke up ALL the guests in the inn, so that they too could come and look at the baby.

And no one got much sleep that night.