Midnight Mass has introduced us to the mystery of Christmas from a theological perspective in a narrative character: the birth of the Child, the conditions of real poverty, the song of the angels, the message to the shepherds. The Mass during the day, on the other hand, helps us to meditate on the marvelous profundity of the event, through poetic text of great literary and theological beauty. The grand theme of the liturgy of today is the manifestation of salvation in Jesus. The Child that has been born for the world is the same God that has begun to dwell among men and women. The tent of Exodus, that accompanied Israel in the desert, and the temple desired by David as a dwelling for Yahweh, are now substituted by the body of Jesus of Nazareth, the “Emmanuel”, “God-with-us”. “The Word was made flesh, he lived among us” (Jn. 1,14). This poor and fragile newborn, is the Word of God per excellence. To show his dignity, John rises solemnly at the beginning of everything: “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God…through him all things came to be” (Jn. 1,1).
The first reading (Is. 52,7-10) is a hymn that invites to sing joyfully because the Lord reigns, returns to Zion and liberates Jerusalem. The messenger, the evangelist already has arrived in Jerusalem, he is seen running to the city and his voice is heard from afar. IT is the eye of the poet manages to capture the beauty of those bloody and tired feet that walk toward the holy city: “How beautiful on the mountains, are the feet of one who brings good news, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation and tells Zion, ‘Your God is king!’” (v. 7). The edict proclaimed by this herald of joyfully news is synthesized in three words: “peace, good, salvation”. To these words are aggregated a fundamental phrase: ‘Your God is king”. A new historical horizon opens for the holy city. In the most dramatic moment of Jerusalem, when still the people cry over the ruins of the destroyed city for the power of Babylonia, in the midst of the misery and desperation, the Lord decides to extend his arm so as to show his strength, intervening in favor of his people: “Break into shouts of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem; for the Lord is consoling his people, redeeming Jerusalem. The Lord bares his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God” (vv. 9-10).
The second reading (Heb. 1,1-6) makes us the solemn introduction to this homily of an exhortative tone that we call “the letter to the Hebrews”. With a mysterious vocabulary and a grandiose tone, the author situates himself in the perspective of the history of salvation, in which God has spoken in many ways and many times to save men and women, revealing to them his plans and to communicate to them his life. God the Father is the protagonist of all of this saving process in history. However, together with him is the Son of whom is affirmed clearly and robustly his precedence from God and his equality with God. The Son has been present at the beginning of the work of creation. As creating word it has been him who is the foundation of the origin of the world (v. 2) and goes on being the foundation of all things in the unfolding of history as “the radiant light of God’s glory”. The “sustaining the universe by his powerful command” (v. 3). The Son is presence with all his glory above all in the culminating moment of salvation, when he arrived being “made completely like his brothers” (Heb. 2,17). The entrance of the Son in the world has brought to fullness all of this development of communication and of divine revelation: “but in the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything” (v. 2). It is the Son, the only and definitive word of the Father, the true center of creation and fullness of history. The words of the letter to the Hebrews are an authentic celebration of the Incarnation and an invitation to “listen” to Jesus, only and definitive Word of the Father, convinced that God’s ways and his will ought not to be searched out in other ways, such as special revelations or extraordinary revelations for heaven, “In giving us his Son, his only Word for he possesses no other, he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word – and he has no more to say…listen to him, because I have nothing more than faith to reveal, nor nothing more to manifest…look at my Son…place your eyes only on him” (Saint John of the Cross).
The Gospel (Jn. 1,1-18) is the prologue of the fourth Gospel: a poem to the Word of God that originally was a Christian hymn of the first communities. John begins with the same words from the first book of the Bible: “in the beginning”. Certainly, he wants to make a tie between the absolute beginning of all of the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, definitive Word of the Father. From the beginning the text proclaims the existence of a divine person, that is the Word, equal to God himself, that expresses and reveals him, that creates and sanctifies everything: “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him” (Jn. 1,1-3). Both the Old Testament as well as the evangelist John affirm the centrality of the Word in the creating plan of God. God has created everything by this Word. Everything that exist is his word. For this reason, for the believer to hear is a form of existence, it is to welcome the life that always comes to us given by God. This creating Word was manifested, many times in history, through the prophets, as word of life and salvation: “What has come into being in him was life, life that was the light of men” (Jn. 1,4). The word is medium of communication, it is expression of being, condition of dialogue. God has a word, a word of his same divine condition with which he has created everything that exist and it has arrived to men and women communicating to them his life and plan of salvation.
The most high point of the Johannine hymn is found in v. 14: “The Word became flesh and lived (literally: “threw his tent”) among us”. The creating and omnipotent word enters in history assuming the fragile and mortal condition of all men and women. The term “word” translates a very rich Greek term, logos that can mean also “plan, reason, wisdom”. Probably John alludes at the same time, to the creating word of Genesis, as to the wisdom of biblical wisdom literature, as the reason for the existence of the universe according to Greek philosophy. The term “flesh” (Greek: sarx) evokes precisely that dimension of decrepitude and debility with which the Word becomes present in the world. The affirmation of John resumes in a magnificent way the mystery of the God-with-us, the historical way of God through Jesus of Nazareth. In Christ the reason of the universe is found, the fullness of everything that exists, the meaning of history and the revelation of the ways of God. All that belongs to man and woman, being “flesh” is affirmed now by the eternal and divine Word. God has placed his “tent” in the history of men and women, in the debility of the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth. The privileged place of the divine presence is now not the tent of the desert (Ex. 33,7-10; 40,35), nor the great temple of Jerusalem (1 Kings 8,10), but the historical existence and triumphal Easter of Jesus. It is right that the Christian community can say of him, “we saw his glory”, the glory of God that reveals his saving power in favor of men and women, “the glory that he has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn. 1,14).
The newborn of Bethlehem is the Word, the Son of God, perfect revelation of the Father. It is the great paradox of the mystery of Christmas: the Word of God is manifest today in a child that does not know how to speak. Nevertheless, Jesus of Nazareth, in his humanity, reveals to us a God infinitely more than any supernatural vision or human discourse, profound though may be. God becomes man and Christmas places upon us a duty: to become also ourselves, each day more human, more respectful of the dignity of man and woman, because only then we will be each day more like the living God that has wanted to share in our condition.