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Sunday:       Christmas Vigil
Date:         December 24, 2004
Year:         A
The readings: [Is. 62:1-5; Acts 13:16-7, 22-5; Mt. 1:1-25]
The message:  He will save His people from their sins.
Total words:  1038

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** The readings follow the sermon.

Today's Christmas Vigil echoes the Words of Jesus who said to His disciples, "watch and pray." [Lk. 21:36] In a few hours, the entire world will be celebrating Christmas Day to commemorate the birth of the Child Jesus in the world to save His people from their sins. The arrival of Jesus in the history of salvation marks the moment when the guidance of Israel by God the Father was transferred to Jesus who instituted the Holy Catholic Church.

The word "vigil" comes from the Latin word "vigilia" which means "a watching" or "keeping watch." In the language of the Church, this term is used to designate the day falling before a more or less prominent feast or solemnity. The vigil is a day that is set apart by the Church as a preparation for the greater day that follows it. In the early centuries of Christianity the faithful were accustomed to gather in or near a church on the evening preceding great feasts, there giving themselves to prayer, in honour of the mystery of religion, or saint who would be venerated on such feasts. The observance of a fast on the entire day before these feasts became part of the discipline of Christianity. It was in this way that Christian tradition was confirmed and perpetuated.

Today's readings from the Scriptures were chosen by the Church to remind us of Yahweh's promise to save His chosen people and the fulfillment of that promise through Jesus Christ.

During the First Reading, [Is. 62:1-5] we heard that the Lord delighted in Zion, the City of Jerusalem. For a long time, God had been silent, no longer speaking to His people through the prophets because of their sinful ways. Now God decided to manifest His mercy. He promised that He would not rest until the justification of Zion had shined forth like the dawn and her salvation like a burning torch. [Is. 62:1]

When God spoke of the justification of Zion, it was to be understood that He was speaking symbolically of the justification of His people. The Lord's justification was called to be so glorious that God would not limit it to just the Jewish nation. The Lord's justification was intended to heal the souls of all those who would enter the Body of Christ by accepting the Lord Jesus as their Saviour through faith and the Sacrament of Baptism. Such a glory would be witnessed by all the nations.

Because of this glorious transformation, God's people would never be "Forsaken" again, nor be termed "Desolate." God's Delight in the Body of Christ was intended to be as a "Marriage." As ordained by God before creation and prophesied centuries before the birth of the Lord Jesus, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church became the glorious Bride of Christ. As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so does God rejoice over the Church that He has built through Jesus Christ. [Is. 62:5]

This glorious event could not have come to pass without the fulfillment of God's promises that were made to Abraham and his descendants. Today's Second Reading from the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 13:16-17, 22-25] affirmed the fulfillment of God's promises. "When God made David their king, in his testimony about him he said, 'I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.' [Acts 13:22] "Of this man's posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised." [Acts. 13:23]

Before the coming of Jesus, John the Baptist was finishing the first phase of God's work related to the incarnation by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. [Acts. 13:24-5] As God's servant, John the Baptist's work was God's work. John's work was intended to bring an end of the period of Israel as God's only people. At that moment in the history of salvation, the ministry of John the Baptist gave way to the ministry of Jesus.

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 1:1-25] gave us an "account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham." [Mt. 1:1] Why such a long genealogy? It was to prove to all the believers of all times that Jesus was truly the Messiah. It was to prove that through Jesus, salvation came to the world. It was to prove that the promises of God to Abraham had finally been fulfilled.

Now Jesus was not the biological Son of Joseph. Jesus, conceived in Mary of the Holy Spirit, [Mt. 1:20] was the adoptive Son of Joseph. Through adoption, Jesus qualified for the throne of David as King. Through adoption, Jesus fulfilled the promises of the Heavenly Father.

As the adopted Son of Saint Joseph, Jesus qualified and inherited the Crown to the earthly Kingdom. Equally, through our adoption by the Lord God, we qualify and shall inherit the Heavenly Kingdom. May we always be grateful to our Lord Jesus for the eternal bliss that awaits us all.

Today's Gospel Reading finished by stating, "'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,' which means, 'God is with us.'" [Mt. 1:23] As history teaches us, the Virgin Mary did conceive a Son and His Name was Emmanuel. Through the Lord Jesus, "the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily." [Col. 1:19, 2:9]

In a few hours, the Season of Advent shall come to its close. The weeks of waiting and praying shall be replaced with great joy and peace. People of all ages and nations shall raise their voices to sing praises and glories to the Lord. During this great Feast, many broken families shall have reconciled and many separated friends shall have made peace. For the power of the Holy Spirit shall have transformed those souls, reminding them of the Good News, Baby Jesus has arrived.

As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us never forget why Jesus came into the world. It was to save His people from their sins! It was to save you, I, all of us!

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The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

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First Reading...

"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.

You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed 'Forsaken,' and your land shall no more be termed 'Desolate'; but you shall be called 'My Delight Is in Her,' and your land 'Married'; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.

For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you." [Is. 62:1-5]

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Second Reading...

"When Paul arrived in Antioch, he stood up in the synagogue, held up his hand for silence, and began to speak: "You Israelites, and others who fear God, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.

When God made David their king, in his testimony about him he said, 'I have found David, son of Jesse, to be a man after my heart, who will carry out all my wishes.' Of this man's posterity God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he promised; before his coming John had already proclaimed a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel. And as John was finishing his work, he said, 'What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. No, but one is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of the sandals on his feet.'" [Acts 13:16-17, 22-25]

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Gospel Reading...

"An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Aram, Aram the father of Aminadab, Aminadab the father of Nahshon, Nahshon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, Solomon the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asaph, Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, Joram the father of Uzziah, Uzziah the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amos, Amos father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, Abiud the father of Eliakim, Eliakim the father of Azor, Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, Achim the father of Eliud, Eliud the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,' which means, 'God is with us.'

When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus." [Mt. 1:1-25]

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