Nativity of the Lord Christmas Mass During the Day

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 During the Day

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Today's Readings


First Reading
Isaiah 52:7-10
God's salvation is announced to the world.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 98:1-6
A prayer of praise for God's salvation.

Second Reading
Hebrews 1:1-6
God now speaks to us through his Son.

Gospel Reading
John 1:1-18 (or shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14)
John announces that in Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Four Masses 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 Mass at midnight proclaims the birth of Jesus using the Gospel of Luke. The Mass at dawn on Christmas morning continues the story of the birth of Jesus as found in Luke's Gospel through the shepherds' visit to the infant Jesus. In each of these Gospel readings, we hear portions of the Infancy Narratives with which we are familiar.

The Gospel for the Christmas Mass during the day is taken from the beginning of John's Gospel, but this Gospel is not an Infancy Narrative like those found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Instead, John's Gospel begins at the beginning, as it were, and presents the Creation story as the framework for announcing the Incarnation. John's opening words, “In the beginning . . .,” echo the opening verse of the Book of Genesis. This framework invites us to view Jesus' birth from God's perspective. Each of the Gospels makes clear that Jesus' birth was the result of God's initiative. However, John's Gospel highlights that this was the divine intention from the very beginning, from the moment of Creation.

As we observe in today's reading, the Gospel of John includes highly philosophical and theological language. One example that particularly stands out is John's use of the expression, “Word of God.” This expression (logos in the Greek) borrows from a concept found in both Jewish and Greek thought. In Jewish thought, this phrase describes God taking action—for example, in the Creation story and in the Wisdom literature. In Greek, or Hellenistic, thought, the logos was understood as an intermediary between God and humanity. John and others in the early Church adopted this language to describe God's incarnation in Jesus. As the term was used to express the trinitarian faith of Christians, the word Logos came to be equated with the Second Person of the Trinity.

In this prologue to the Gospel of John, the main themes that will be developed in his Gospel are introduced. These themes are presented as dualities: light/darkness, truth/falsehood, life/death, and belief/unbelief. We also hear in this prologue a unique aspect of John's Gospel—the motif of testimony. John the Baptist was sent by God to testify about Jesus, the light. Others in this Gospel will also offer testimony about Jesus. The reader is invited to accept this testimony, which bears witnesses to Jesus, the Son of God. But even more directly, Jesus' action and words will themselves testify to his identity with God as God's Incarnate Word.

Thinking about Jesus' birth in these theological and cosmological terms seems particularly appropriate as we celebrate the feast of Christmas in the darkness of winter. At this time, nature itself seems to remind us of the darkness of sin. Into this darkness, in the midst of our sinfulness, God comes to dwell among us. John's Gospel reminds us that through the Incarnation, God saves us from the darkness of sin and makes us his children.


Gospel Reading
John 1:1-18 (or shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14)
John announces that in Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.


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

Young children are attentive to signs of nature, and we can use these natural signs to teach them about God. At Christmas we remember that Jesus is the light that came into the world. We believe that not even the darkness of sin can overcome the light of Jesus' love.

Materials Needed

  • None

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the children, Do any of you know someone who is afraid of the dark? Many children are afraid of the dark at some time in their lives. And even some adults can find themselves fearful in a dark place, especially if the place is unfamiliar to them. Why do you think that people are sometimes afraid of the dark? (Accept all reasonable answers; e.g., things look scarier in the dark, we can get lost more easily in the dark.)

  2. Say, We celebrate Christmas at the beginning of the season of winter. Has anybody noticed what happens to the hours of daylight and darkness during winter? (The hours of sunlight are shorter, and the hours of darkness are longer.) This is a good time for us to celebrate Christmas because the darkness of winter reminds us that we need the light of God in our lives.

  3. Say, When we think about Christmas, many of us picture a Nativity scene. This is an important part of our Christmas celebration. But our Gospel reading for Christmas day talks about Christmas in a different way. Let's listen carefully to this Gospel. I'm going to give you an important clue to help you understand this Gospel. When the Gospel says “Word,” it is talking about Jesus. Listen.

  4. Read today's Gospel in its shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14.

  5. Ask, What does this Gospel tell us that Jesus' birth did for us? (Jesus brought light into our darkness.) How powerful is the light of Jesus according to this Gospel? (very powerful; the darkness could not overcome the light that is Jesus)

  6. Say, When we see the sun shining even during winter, we can remember that Jesus is the light that came into the world. And we remember that even the darkness of sin cannot keep us from the light of Jesus' love.

  7. Conclude in prayer together thanking God for sending Jesus to be our Light. Sing together a Christmas hymn, such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful” or “Silent Night.”


Gospel Reading
John 1:1-18 (or shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14)
John announces that in Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.


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

Older children can begin to appreciate the many ways in which we communicate with one another. Today's Gospel recalls for us that Jesus, the Word of God, is God's self-communication to us, which saves us from the darkness of sin.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Write the word communication on the board. Ask the young people to identify as many different forms of communication as they can. (spoken word, written word, music, sign language, body language) Invite a volunteer to write these ideas on the board under the heading communication.

  2. Say, We have many ways that we communicate with one another and many tools that help us to express ourselves. Together review the forms of communication listed above and identify the tools that are used to aid each form of communication. For example, spoken word is aided by tools like the telephone and the microphone; tools used to help us communicate with the written word include pen and paper, typewriters, and computers.

  3. Say, It's interesting that each form of communication has its particular usefulness. Here's what I mean. Sometimes we find that we prefer to write someone a letter rather than talk to them. In a letter, our words can be saved and read over and over again. Sometimes this is important to us. Other times, when we wish to communicate with a large number of people quickly, the convenience and speed of e-mail is preferred. However, when I need an answer to a question immediately, I would probably pick up the telephone.

  4. Say, Just as we have many ways in which we communicate with one another, God has communicated with his people in a variety of ways. All of Scripture is God's communication to us, which is why we call this the Word of God. In Scripture, we also learn that God has spoken with his people in a variety of ways. God spoke to Moses from a burning bush; he communicated to Mary through an angel. Today's Gospel also talks about the Word of God. Let's listen carefully and see if we can identify two additional ways in which God communicates with us.

  5. Invite one or more volunteers to read today's Gospel, John 1:1-18.

  6. Say, The clue to identifying one way that this Gospel tells us about how God communicates with us is in the first line of this reading. How does this Gospel begin? (“In the beginning . . .”) Where else in the Bible do we hear these words? (In Genesis, when God created the world) One way that the Word of God is revealed to us is in the creation of the world.

  7. Ask, What is a second way that the Word of God is revealed to us? (in the person of Jesus) How does this Gospel talk about this? (the Word became flesh) What does this Scripture say was revealed to us in Jesus? (the glory of God; Jesus reveals God himself to us.)

  8. Say, At Christmas, we celebrate the self-communication of God in the person of Jesus. Jesus is God's Word made flesh for our salvation. We call this the Incarnation.

  9. Conclude in prayer together thanking God for this mystery of the Incarnation and the salvation that we receive because Jesus was born among us. Sing together a Christmas hymn, such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful” or “Silent Night.”


Gospel Reading
John 1:1-18 (or shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14)
John announces that in Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age are beginning to work out whom they believe they can trust. When we trust someone, we believe him or her if he or she says, “I give you my word.” In today's Gospel, we see that God gave us his Word—Jesus.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask a volunteer to explain in his or her own words what it means when someone says, “I give you my word.” (I promise; you can trust me)

  2. Invite the young people to think quietly about a person they know whose word they trust.

  3. Invite volunteers to share their examples with the group.

  4. Tell the young people that God has given us his Word and that his Word is a person: Jesus Christ.

  5. Explain that in the beginning of John's Gospel, Jesus is referred to as the Word. Say: In the Gospel for the Christmas Mass during the day, we hear John tell us about the Word—Jesus—becoming flesh.

  6. Invite volunteers to read aloud John 1:1-18.

  7. Point out that when we hear God's Word proclaimed at Mass, we are coming to know a person—Jesus.

  8. Write the word Incarnation on the board. Ask whether anyone can explain the meaning of this word.

  9. Explain that on Christmas, we celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus, meaning that we celebrate God becoming human, the Word becoming flesh.

  10. Point out that we sometimes use the phrase, “in the flesh” to tell others that we met a famous celebrity in person. Say: When we say that Jesus became flesh, it means that we actually encounter him in our lives. Jesus truly became one of us.

  11. Conclude by singing together a Christmas hymn that celebrates the joy of the Incarnation. (Example: “Joy to the World”)


Gospel Reading
John 1:1-18 (or shorter form, John 1:1-5, 9-14)
John announces that in Jesus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.


Family Connection

At Christmas we celebrate the great mystery that God became flesh and dwelt among us. We call this mystery the Incarnation (the word means “to take on flesh”), and it changes everything. Today's Gospel reminds us that we can also look upon the Nativity from God's perspective to better appreciate the significance of the Incarnation. The mystery we proclaim at Christmas is that God, the very God who created all things from nothing and who is light itself, took on our humanity in order to transform us. Through his birth among us, we have seen the face of God and have become nothing less than God's own children. At this awesome mystery, we adore.

Gather as a family around your Nativity set. Keep this image before you and talk about how familiar we are with this scene. Invite members of the family to recall the details of Jesus' birth that we hear in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Observe that the Gospel of John invites us to consider Jesus' birth from a different perspective. Read together today's Gospel, John 1:1-14.

John's Gospel reminds us that the image we see in our Nativity set is a most remarkable sight: God made himself at home with us by taking on flesh and becoming a human person. We call this mystery the Incarnation. What are some of the things that John's Gospel says happened for us because Jesus came to dwell among us? (Light overcame darkness; we see God's glory in Jesus; we became children of God.) Together thank God for this mystery of the Incarnation and the salvation that we received because Jesus was born among us. Sing together a Christmas hymn, such as “O Come, All Ye Faithful” or “Silent Night.”