Noel, Noel, Noel!

How does the Christmas liturgy highlight the eager expectation of our Savior and the joy of welcoming the little infant Jesus, our God?

According to ancient Roman tradition, it is highlighted by the celebration of three Masses (or even four, with the Vigil Mass in the evening of the 24th, popularly known as the Children's Mass): Jesus gives himself to Mary, the shepherds and the world.

Here, the Mass prepares us to await the coming of Christ, our Redeemer, enabling us to live already of his presence, of his life and of Heaven! In the Eucharist, we receive the presence of the little child in the crib. Jesus, humbling as he is, makes himself bread.

On Christmas Eve, the nocturnal liturgy is reminiscent of what took place in Bethlehem: it is linked to the presence of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph. We live this mass with the desire to receive Jesus as Mary and Joseph received him, and to worship him with them. That's why this liturgy is followed by a night of adoration where, in the silence of the Eucharist, we contemplate Jesus in the intimacy of the Holy Family. A night of grace, renewal and conversion, the conversion of Christmas Eve! On this Holy Night, Jesus wants to give himself in a completely new way.  

At dawn, it's the turn of the little shepherds! (called "the shepherds' mass"). Jesus came first of all for the poor, for these poor, simple, joyful, loving shepherds! They come to the infant Jesus "empty-handed", but with an eagerness to meet him. Our straw-covered chapels at Christmas are a small sign of this: we arrive at Christmas as poor ones, so that Jesus can come and fill our hearts.

And then the Mass of the Day with the people of God, our friends, the faithful who want to join us... is a very special Mass of intercession for the world.

We choose to celebrate Christmas Day in "desert", in silence and prayer, to live a missionary Christmas: a special day of intercession for our families, for those who suffer, who will live Christmas in solitude or amidst violence, and for whom it will not be a day of joy. We look to the Christ Child who comes to renew our hope! He is the source of all promises!

Our Savior comes to us in a very communal way, with the littleness of a tiny child born into poverty. It's an opportunity for us to leave secondary things behind with just one desire: to be close to him, and to love each other even more profoundly. It's a time of a true encounter with the God Child, to whom we entrust our lives.

The joy of Christmas is the joy of our salvation: we say to him, "Come and save me," and he comes!

And the hope of Christmas is to have in our hearts, as Mary did, the haste of his coming, to run with the shepherds to meet him, and through the apostolate of prayer, to announce to the world the Word made flesh, the Light of the nations!

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