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A Scripture Reflection for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord

by Stephen Bevans, SVD | December 25, 2017

A Scripture Reflection for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord
Christmas, December 25, 2017

Scripture Readings:

Mass at Midnight: Is 9:1-6, Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13, Ti 2:11-14, Lk 2:1-14
Mass at Dawn: Is 62:11-12, Ps 97:1, 6, 11-12, Ti 3:4-7, Lk 2:15-20
Mass during the Day: Is 52:7-10, Ps 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6, Heb 1:1-6, Jn 1:1-18

A Poem, A symphony

The twelve selections from Scripture that the church places before us in the three Masses of Christmas are like three stanzas of a great, beautiful, powerful poem, or the three movements of a lush symphony. If you get a chance, read them together. They are extraordinary. There are several recurring themes: light in darkness, hope in despair, God finally showing Godself as savior, God’s overflowing grace, the universal extent of God’s work of salvation, salvation’s cosmic effects, wonder. And through all these themes run others—smallness, simplicity, quietness, grace, peace.

The first lines of this poem or symphony read “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light … for unto us a child is born.” The last lines read “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.”

And in between there are some amazing lines: “the grace of God has appeared”; “there was no room for them in the inn”; “glory to God in the highest”; “your savior comes”; “the heavens proclaim God’s justice”; “when the kindness and generous love of God our savior has appeared”; “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart”; “how beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the one who brings glad tidings”; “the LORD has bared a mighty arm in the sight of the nations”; “in times past, God spoke in partial and various ways …; in these last days God has spoken to us through the Son”; ”the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

This feast is so rich. It’s hard to grasp what it means. God one of us? God among us? Can it be true? Has light really shown in the darkness of our lives—our struggles, our losses, our sinfulness? And in the darkness of our world—after Las Vegas, NV;  Sutherland Springs TX; Hurricane Maria; renewed global nuclear threats; the continued experience of international terrorism in these last years? Has unto us a child been born, a child who will be healing and hope for all the earth?

I think we will only understand Christmas, and know the answers to these questions, if we do what the shepherds did. They went to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in a manger. We can’t do that physically, of course, but we can let the rhythms of the poem, the melodies of the symphony, work on us, enchant us, transform us.


The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Stephen Bevans, SVD

Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD, Professor Emeritus of Mission and Culture
S.T.B., S.T.L., Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome; M.A., Ph.D., University of Notre Dame; Study: University of Cambridge

Steve Bevans is a priest in the missionary congregation of the Society of the Divine Word and Louis J. Luzbetak, SVD, Professor Emeritus of Mission and Culture.

After completing his Licentiate in Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 1972, he served as a missionary to the Philippines until 1981. In 1986 he received a Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame and has taught at CTU since that time, officially retiring from the faculty in 2015.

He is the author or co-author of six books and editor or co-editor of eleven, including Models of Contextual Theology (2002), Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today (2004), and An Introduction to Theology in Global Perspective (2009). In 2013, he edited A Century of Catholic Mission, and, in 2015, with Cathy Ross, Mission on the Road to Emmaus: Constants, Context, and Prophetic Dialogue.

He is a member of the World Council of Churches' Commission on World Mission and Evangelism.

Books written by Steve Bevans

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