Lector's Notes

To the home page

of Lector's Notes

Christmas Mass During the Day, Years A, B, & C, December 25, Annually
Lectionary index # 16

A digest for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.

The presider may speak these before the first and second readings, and before rising for the gospel acclamation. Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.


Christmas Mass during the day
Before the first reading:

The city Jerusalem, surrounding mount Zion where the temple stood, had been almost emptied by the exile of many of its citizens. When the exile ended, the prophet describes sentinels in the city seeing the people return.
Between responsorial psalm and second reading:

Jewish converts to Christ missed many of the institutions of Judaism. The letter to the Hebrews shows them they have more now in Christ than ever before. This passage compares God's communication through the prophets versus how God has just communicated in Christ, and how Christ is superior to the angels as mediator.
[The familiar gospel passage needs no introduction (or, no introduction could do it justice).]

To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).

First reading, Isaiah 52:7-10 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: As we've seen in other readings from the middle third of the book of Isaiah (chapters 40 through 55), this passage is from the time when the Jews were returning to their homeland at the end of the Babylonian Captivity. The setting is in the desolate city Jerusalem, where a remnant of people is awaiting the exiles' return. The city is rhetorically called "Zion," after the hill in its middle where the Temple stood.

The Imagery: Isaiah first imagines that the waiting people can hear, even on a distant hill, the footsteps of their returning kin. The returnees are pictured as singing exultantly, "Your God is King!"

Then the local sentinels raise the cry of recognition, and join in the praise of God. Finally, the joyful people declare that all the earth will recognize the hand of God at work in their restoration.

Proclaiming It: There's no way to proclaim this but joyfully. If it helps you get in the mood, imagine a contemporary town's reception of hometown troops returning from a war. While such an event today may or may not express God's favor, the enthusiasm at such a scene is like what Isaiah described in Jerusalem.

Second Reading, Hebrews 1:1-6 [Jerusalem Bible translation]

The Historical Situation: The addressees of the Letter to the Hebrews were Christian Jews beginning to feel the pain of separation from their fellow Jews who did not see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The groups were diverging, perhaps rapidly. The Christian Jews needed to be reminded how their relationship with Jesus more than filled gaps in their religious lives caused by the loss of Temple ritual and the like.

So the letter begins with a comparison of how God formerly spoke to us with how God has now definitively spoken to us through Jesus. You should speak this with strongly contrasting tones of voice, so your listeners get the idea that something has changed here: "In times past, ..." versus "In these last days, ..." You can also begin the reading by announcing "The beginning of the Letter to the Hebrews," rather than "A reading from ..." That might get the attention of a few more members of the assembly. (On this day of the year, that's more of a struggle than usual.)

The Theological Background: The whole reading is about the superiority of Jesus to everything and everyone else. Specifically it states how Jesus is superior to angels. Implied here is that Jesus is superior to the institutions of Judaism, from which the Hebrew Christians were cut off and for which they were feeling nostalgic.

Proclaiming It: So, how are you to proclaim this? In the middle sentences, from "who is the refulgence ..." to "more excellent than theirs ...," try to speak with a sense of wonder in your voice. You're describing the glory of God, and the enthronement of Jesus on high. Then, when comparing God's regard for Jesus to God's estimate of the angels, sound argumentative, like a lawyer making the summation at a trial.

A Homily Starter

In the gospel, where the evangelist says the Word became flesh "and dwelt among us," the Greek word translated "dwelt" actually means "pitched his tent" among us. What an interesting choice of word. Pitching a tent, with its suggestion of readiness to travel, of unwillingness to settle down, is far from the only way a sovereign might establish his presence among a people. The addressees of the fourth gospel were quite familiar with permanent cities, with imposing fortresses, with grand palaces. Yet when the Word, Who was God, comes to be among this people, the Word dwells in a tent.

But this Word is not just another local god, with which the Middle East was littered in those days. This was the Word Who had been with God since the beginning. The ancestors-in-faith of John's community were a famously local and particular people. They were this Word's own, but when the Word come to them, they "did not receive him." This evangelist, like Saint Paul, interprets the rejection of Jesus by his fellow Jews as an opportunity seized by God to open the reign of grace and mercy to all people, to show the world finally and definitively that there is only one God for all people, and that all people can be united as children of this one God.

Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
Bible Study pages of Saint Charles Borromeo Church, Picayune, Mississippi The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes. Note the multiple links for readings in Catholic masses at midnight, dawn, and during the day.
The great liturgy site at Saint Louis University

Especially useful are Reginald Fuller's exegesis of the readings.

(Caveat lector as of October 31, 2013. Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact future URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).

Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's (or holyday's) readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: courtesy of The Evangelist, official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York, or of The Belleville Messenger, of the Diocese of Belleville.

Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.

Return to Lector's notes home page

Send email to the author.

Last modified: October 31, 2013