Scripture Readings for December 27, 2017
I hope you were able to celebrate a wonderful Christmas Day and you can help make it a season and not just a one day event. As you know, the Church celebrates Christmas beginning on Christmas day through the Epiphany on Sunday January 7. Our everyday life seems to create Christmas from about Halloween through Christmas day and then puts it all aside and moves on. An interesting indicator of that is the way radio stations play Christmas music. The one I listen to started before Thanksgiving and played Christmas music right through Christmas day and then stopped.
I think this is another example of being in a hurry. We are easily excited about what is coming but once something is here there is a tendency to look immediately for what is coming next. If you have young children or grandchildren you know how they can be ready for the next present almost before the current one is open. The issue is to learn that paying attention to the moment, is what yields the greatest rewards. That, of course, is what a two week celebration of Christmas is all about. The birth of Jesus is more momentous than any one day, it needs to be celebrated and elaborated on for days and weeks.
How does that fit with today’s Gospel? I didn’t think we could consider today’s Gospel and our first reading without recognizing the season we are celebrating. Frankly, I was somewhat disappointed to find a reading about Jesus and the tomb as today’s Gospel, even if it is the feast of St. John the apostle. However, it does fit our celebration, because it is the empty tomb that is the beginning of our faith that Jesus is God’s Son, just as it was for Mary Magdalene, Peter, John and the apostles. We are the beneficiaries of what the letter of John says, “what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us.” What the women and men discovered in the days and weeks after Jesus’ death has been passed on to us and is the reason we celebrate Christmas as the birth of God’s Son and not just another well intentioned prophet or wise man who lived an exemplary life.
It is important for us to recognize that when Mary first finds the tomb empty she assumes somebody has taken the body. Peter and John run because they think someone has defiled the grave. Based on the Gospel stories we know that it wasn’t until Jesus appeared to the Apostles later that they came to understand and believe who he is. It’s important because we can think that faith in Jesus was easily apparent for the apostles, since they had lived with him, and should somehow be easy for us who are active in the Church. I would argue that it didn’t come easily for the Apostles. The Gospels say over and over how they didn’t understand. Even after Jesus appears to them, Thomas for example, won’t believe the Apostles reports of his appearance to them. Faith is built over time and is doubted at times and needs strengthening by all the different things that happen in our lives. So when the time comes to celebrate what we have come to believe over a lifetime of struggle and joy, we should take more than one day to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the renewed demonstration, for everyone, that God lives with us. Let’s make Christmas two weeks of celebration.