Nativity of the Lord Christmas Mass at Dawn

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.


The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)—Mass at Dawn

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Today's Readings


First Reading
Isaiah 62:11-12
Say to daughter Zion, your savior comes.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 97:1-6, 11-12
A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us.

Second Reading
Titus 3:4-7
He saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:15-20
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.

Background on the Gospel Reading

There are four Masses that are celebrated for the feast of Christmas, and each is given its own set of readings to help us contemplate Christ's birth. The Gospel for the Vigil Mass on Christmas Eve is taken from the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus and the angel's announcement of the birth to Joseph. The Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus through the angels' announcement to the shepherds in the Gospel of Luke. Luke 2:15-20 is the reading for the mass at dawn on Christmas morning. It continues the story of the birth of Jesus as found in Luke's Gospel with the shepherds' visit to the infant Jesus. Finally, the Gospel for Christmas Mass during the day is taken from the beginning of John's Gospel. It is not an Infancy Narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Instead, John's Gospel starts at the very beginning of time and presents Creation as the framework for announcing the Incarnation. John's opening words echo the first verse in the Book of Genesis, “In the beginning was the Word.”

The story of Jesus' birth, which begins with a reference to Caesar Augustus, concludes with the shepherds, people looked down on by most of society, visiting the infant. As the angels return to heaven, the shepherds decide to go see “this thing” that has happened in Bethlehem. Their visit confirms everything the angels had told them about the birth of the Savior and Messiah. They then spoke publicly about all they had seen, to the great astonishment of all who heard. Mary ponders all this in her heart, and the shepherds return to their fields praising God. What had been told to them really happened. This account does not tell us very much about the infant Jesus because Luke's concern is that God's action of sending a savior be publicly proclaimed. As Paul says before King Agrippa in Acts of the Apostles 26:26, “None of this was done in a corner.” The picture is simple, two parents and an infant in a stable. But the reality is great, God's salvation offered to all.


Gospel Reading
Luke 2:15-20
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

Children can get bored easily. They can relate to the boredom that shepherds must have felt, standing around for hours watching their sheep. The Gospel for the Christmas Mass at dawn reminds us of the great excitement that the announcement of the birth of Jesus brought into the lives of the shepherds.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children to think of a time during the past week when they felt bored.

  2. Invite the children to share their experiences.

  3. After they have had a chance to share, explain to the children that, in the Gospel for the Christmas Mass at dawn, we learn that the first people to visit Jesus when he was born were shepherds.

  4. Say: Being a shepherd could sometimes get boring. They had to stand around for hours making sure that the sheep did not stray. You can probably imagine how excited they were when the angels appeared to them to tell them about the birth of Jesus.

  5. Tell the children that in this Gospel, we will hear about how the shepherds reacted to this good news and what they did next.

  6. Read aloud Luke 2:15-20.

  7. Ask: What did the shepherds do when the angels went away? (They went to find the place where Jesus was born.) What did the shepherds do when they left the place where Jesus was born? (They went to tell others about the good news of Jesus' birth.)

  8. Say: The shepherds were so excited that they were the first ones to hear the good news about the birth of Jesus. They weren't bored anymore when they heard the message of the angels! In fact, they were so excited that they couldn't wait to tell everybody about the birth of Jesus.

  9. Tell the children that some people get bored or sad because of problems in their lives such as sickness or old age. Encourage them to be like the shepherds and to share their excitement with others who need it most.

  10. Conclude by singing together a Christmas hymn of joy, such as “Joy to the World.”

 


Gospel Reading
Luke 2:15-20
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

Children at this age love to share good news with others. The Gospel for the Christmas Mass at dawn reminds us of our responsibility to share the joy of the Gospel with others who may be suffering a loss of joy.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Go around the room and ask the children to share something good that happened to them in the last week. (e.g., a team victory, a good grade on a test, a family member returning home from the hospital)

  2. After each of the children has had a chance to share, say: Whenever we have good news, we enjoy sharing it with others. Likewise, we enjoy hearing good news from other people. In the Gospel for the Christmas Mass at dawn, we find that the shepherds couldn't wait to go out and tell others about the good news of the newborn Jesus.

  3. Invite volunteers to read aloud Luke 2:15-20.

  4. Ask: How did people react to what the shepherds told them? (They were amazed.)

  5. Point out that Christmas is a time of great joy and good news. What is the good news that we celebrate this day? (Jesus is born, and God is with us.)

  6. Tell the children that it is our responsibility as Catholics to share that joy with others, especially those who are feeling a loss of joy in their lives.

  7. Ask the children to offer examples of situations in which people may be experiencing a loss of joy. (those who are sick, those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, victims of war, and so on)

  8. Encourage the children to be on the lookout for people in their own lives who may be suffering a loss of joy and to share the joy of the Gospel message with them.

  9. Conclude by singing together a Christmas hymn of joy, such as “Joy to the World.”


Gospel Reading
Luke 2:15-20
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age need to know that following Jesus can bring great joy into their lives. The Gospel for the Christmas Mass at dawn reminds us of the great joy the shepherds experienced on that first Christmas and encourages us to share that same joy with others.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the young people to identify a moment in their life when they experienced great joy. Invite volunteers to share their experiences.

  2. Say: When something wonderful happens in our lives, we usually cannot wait to share the news with others.

  3. Tell the young people that in the Gospel for the Mass at dawn on Christmas, we learn about the great joy the shepherds experienced when they found the newborn Jesus and how they reacted by telling others about their experience.

  4. Invite volunteers to read aloud Luke 2:15-20.

  5. Point out that because of suffering, many people have little or no joy in their lives.

  6. Tell the young people that, like the shepherds, Catholics are called to bring the joyful message of salvation to those who are most in need of it.

  7. Emphasize that proclaiming the joy of salvation in Jesus means more than simply telling people to be happy. It requires that we work to improve the conditions in their lives that prevent them from experiencing joy.

  8. Encourage the young people to spread joy in the days to come, especially to those who are most in need of it.

  9. Conclude by singing together a Christmas hymn, such as “Joy to the World.”


Gospel Reading
Luke 2:15-20
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in the manger.


Family Connection

In our families, we are able to share good news and bad news. All too often, because of our busy-ness, we find ourselves only dealing with the bad news. Start a family tradition of inviting each family member to share something good that happened to him or her that day as you gather for dinner. Explain that, in the Gospel for the Christmas Mass at dawn, the shepherds were told the good news of Jesus' birth by the angels, and then they in turn went forth to share with others the good news. Have family members read aloud Luke 2:15-20. Point out how the people who heard the good news of the shepherds were amazed. Talk about how Mary treasured all this in her heart, meaning that she pondered the significance of these events and sought to recognize God's presence in the midst of them. Talk about how you can each ponder one another's good news and see how God is present in your family's everyday lives. Conclude by praying together a Hail Mary, telling your family that at Christmas we celebrate the fruit of Mary's womb, Jesus.