Our readings for Sunday are here.
These are some of the poems, my notes, and interpretations of Fr Dennis’ homilies from the Christmas Masses in 2017. For about ten years prior to the pandemic, Fr Dennis Dillon SJ celebrated the Nativity Pageant Mass (you know … Charlie Brown and the Christmas pageant?). 🙂 His spoken homily was very brief, then he invited the children close near at the sanctuary. He then performed and amiably chatted his way through a couple magic tricks sharing the wonder and awe of Christmas. You could see the kiddos have excitement, joy, and wonder — see those emotions being bundled with their pageant experience and the coming of Jesus Christ. Pretty cool.
The children themselves create the Living Word in ways our adult imagination fails, or has forgotten. One year at the pageant, after the Annunciation, Gabriel threw her hands up in joy and bounced herself up and out of the choir loft after getting Mary’s “yes.” It’s easy to forget the joy of heaven of sharing the good news, let alone someone accepting it!
This year, when the narrator read that ” … Gabriel departed,” Gabriel dropped like a rock (whump!!), slunk up the stairs until the focus was on the Visitation occurring on the other side of the choir loft. It’s easy to forget, holy or not, Mary said “yes” amidst some pretty challenging irruptions of God in her life.
The gospel readings for Christmas are tied to the Mass, e.g., Vigil, Night, Dawn, or Day, and come from the gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John. The Christmas readings are listed for ABC, rather than a single cycle, like we read during Advent, e.g., Matthew’s gospel is the dominant gospel account in Cycle A this liturgical year. It and the Gospel of Luke are the only two of the four which discuss the birth of Jesus. Luke has the shepherds and angels, Matthew has the magi and more about Joseph’s interactions with the angels.
For clarification, both the gospels according to Luke and Matthew have plenty of angels! However, one would expect the angels to interact with the key people in the story, like Mary and Joseph. The messengers of God interact with key people. What is unusual about our God and the account in Luke, is the angels proclaimed “glad tidings of great joy” to shepherds, at that time some of the lowliest members and most on the fringes of Jewish society. This is God’s very different take on who the key players are in God’s eyes and heart! This is one more exclamation point by God that salvation is for everybody! St Gregory of Nazianzus wrote that we are most made in the image of God when we love humans, preferentially the poor. This is one more example of God doing so!
Fr Jim offered the reminder in the homily today that Jesus was born poor so the lowly shepherds AND magi could visit him. Birth in a palace would have left the shepherds out in the cold.
So the following is from a 2017 10AM Christmas Day Mass, I believe, celebrated by D2.
Some of the poems Fr Dennis references over the years:
- Christmas Light by May Sarton
- December by Gary Johnson (a favorite, used on Christmas Eve 2016)
- Looking at the Stars by Robert Bly (rl recent addition, Fr Dennis-y).
In 2017, we reflected on —
- The Nativity Pageant and Mass are a celebration of the children of the world. The pageant and its fresh interpretation of the story by each year’s cast of children renews our faith. Fr Dennis wore the stole of children to honor all the children — those who are children by age, and those who are children at heart. Most importantly, he wore it to honor the One who came to be with us … as a babe!
- Why would the Trinity do this, this mystical incredible idea of the Incarnation? What was Jesus hoping to say with the Incarnation? Solidarity. Jesus of the Trinity became incarnate to share the vulnerability of a fertilized cell on to his last breath on the cross to be in total solidarity with us humans, God’s created. This form of solidarity means:
- His mercy comes from within, from his full humanity and divinity
- He felt himself at home with us in a very simple meal of bread and wine, and being divine could leave this expression with us in the Eucharist, so we can always be together in the Sacrament
- He became helpless, like we are helpless and vulnerable
- Because of Jesus’ mercy of Incarnation, we aren’t so helpless, and no one of us is ever alone. Our facades of independence become a barrier to our divinity and acceptance of salvation.
- In today’s Collect Prayer for the Vigil Mass for the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas!), we pray that because of God we “share[e] in the divinity of Christ.” In other words, through the Incarnation, we are called to be divine, and the call itself as well as its manifestation is Grace, God’s Life within us, now.
- May Sarton’s poem, Christmas Light, feels extra resonant tonight … as it feels like the joys and the busy-ness of creating space for reflection or giving or service this autumn and Advent having finally ceded before the coming of the Babe, and his Peace. I sit with my “small silent tree” bedecked with ornaments glittering with family memories and
I [feel] reborn again,
I kn[o]w love’s presence near
[Is] with me in the night
When everyone ha[s] gone
And the garland of pure light
Stay[s] on, stay[s] on.
- Our featured image is John Swanson’s Nativity. He passed in September 2021. From his website: Mr. Swanson’s art reflects the strong heritage of storytelling he inherited from his Mexican mother and Swedish father. John Swanson’s narrative is direct and easily understood. He addressed human values, cultural roots, and the quest for self-discovery through visual images. These include Bible stories and social celebrations such as attending the circus, the concert, and the opera. He also depicted everyday life, city and country walks, visits to the library, the train station or the schoolroom. His parables optimistically embrace life and spiritual transformation.