Nativity of the Lord Christmas Midnight Mass

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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 Midnight

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Today's Readings

First Reading
Isaiah 9:1-6
To those in darkness, a child will be born who will have dominion over the earth.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 96:1-2,2-3,11-12,13
Sing a new song to the Lord.

Second Reading
Titus 2:11-14
God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:1-14
Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem as the angel appears to the shepherds.

Background on the Gospel Reading

During the Christmas season, our liturgy invites us to consider the birth of the Lord from many vantage points. As we begin this season, it is useful to remember that the stories of Jesus' birth and childhood are found in only two of our Gospels, Matthew and Luke. Throughout this season, we will hear stories from both Gospels. Those Gospels tell different but complementary stories about Jesus' birth, highlighting items of theological importance about the Incarnation and the salvation that Jesus brings.

On this day, the Feast of Christmas, we are given the details of Christ's birth as found in the Gospel of Luke. Here we learn about the census that brings Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem, where Jesus is born. We also hear about the angel's announcement of this good news to the shepherds. In these details, we find two of Luke's particular concerns: (1) to locate the coming of Christ in the wider framework of salvation history as good news for all people, Gentiles and Jews, and (2) to show the Lord's favor upon the poor and lowly.

In Luke's Gospel, Jesus is born as one of the poor. Laid in a manger in a stable, because there was no room at the inn, he comes into the world through obscure and surprising means. Yet, as the angel proclaims this good news to the shepherds, this infant is announced as the Messiah and Lord. In the song of the angels, all are invited to give glory to God for this miraculous birth, in which God comes to share our humanity.

The angels sing that Jesus' coming brings peace. Yet there is little in the details of this Gospel that gives evidence of peace. Jesus is born as a traveler away from home, born in a stable in a crowded city under the occupation of foreigners. The appearance of the angel to the shepherds frightens them. When the angels proclaim Jesus' birth as the harbinger of “peace on earth,” the evangelist Luke clearly wants us to take the long view. The shepherds are invited to claim a faith that will enable them to see this infant as a sign God's promise of a messiah. It is through such faith that one finds the peace of which the angels sing.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:1-14
Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem as the angel appears to the shepherds.

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

The angels announced to the shepherds that Jesus’ birth was a sign of God’s reign of peace. Help younger children understand that we can trust God’s promise of peace and pray for God’s peace for all people.

Materials Needed

  • Large paper angels cut from a template (one per child); crayons or colored pencils 

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask: Whose birth are we celebrating today? (Jesus’) Say: Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. After Jesus was born, angels came to proclaim God’s peace on earth.
  2. Say: Mary and Joseph were far from home when Jesus was born. They didn’t have a place to stay. They probably weren’t feeling very peaceful. Listen carefully as I read you the story of Jesus’ birth from Luke’s Gospel.
  3. Read Luke 2:1–14.
  4. Ask: What did Mary do after Jesus was born? (She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and put him in a manger.) Say: Jesus was born in the place where the animals lived because there was no room for the Holy Family in the inn. Then angels appeared to shepherds in the nearby fields. The shepherds were afraid, but the angel of God told them he had good news. Ask: What was the good news? (Jesus had been born.) Say: The angels praised God and said there would be peace on earth.
  5. Say: Sometimes people go through hard times, like Joseph and Mary did before Jesus was born. We can pray that all people know God’s peace. Ask: Who is someone you want to share God’s peace with this Christmas? Say: Decorate the angel and give it to that person. If you want, you might write your name or words of peace on the angel. Allow children time to draw and share their angels.
  6. Pray together that God’s peace will come to all people. Close by sharing a sign of peace.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:1-14
Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem as the angel appears to the shepherds.

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

The angels announced to the shepherds that Jesus' birth was a sign of God's reign of peace. That peace is on God's terms, not ours. Like the shepherds, we are invited to accept the sign of the infant in the manger as a promise that God's peace will prevail on Earth and to pray for that peace.

Materials Needed

  • Paper and pencils for writing “messages of peace”

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Say to the group: The Christmas season is often associated with thoughts of peace. Let's name some situations where peace is needed in our world today. Invite the group to identify several areas where peace is needed in our world.

  2. Say: We think of peace especially at Christmas because peace was part of the message that shepherds heard when Jesus' birth was announced. The angels' message of peace to the shepherds is one of the many stories about Jesus' birth that we hear during the Christmas season. Let us listen attentively to this Gospel story about Jesus' birth. Invite one or more volunteers to read Luke 2:1-14.

  3. Ask: What did the angel announce to the shepherds? (good news for all people, the birth of a savior, the sign of an infant in a manger) What was the shepherds' response to the appearance of the angel? (fear) What happens last in today's Gospel? (a multitude from heaven sings God's praise and announces peace on earth)

  4. Say: The angels who appeared to the shepherds announced to them God's peace. As we began, we identified many areas where God's peace is needed in our world. Let's now prepare some messages of peace that our world needs to hear today.

  5. As a group, or in groups of two to three, prepare messages of peace for the particular situations named at the start. These messages can be phrased as prayers of petition, such as For places where there is war, may God bring healing where there is division. Invite groups to share these messages of peace as part of the concluding prayer.

  6. Pray together that God's peace will come to the situations named by praying the messages of peace as prayers of petition. Conclude by singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:1-14
Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem as the angel appears to the shepherds.

Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people in this age group have seen images of the birth of Christ numerous times. Luke’s account of the Infancy Narrative focuses on the appearance of angels to the shepherds, who were ordinary laborers. This Gospel provides us with an opportunity to focus on the Good News that Jesus brings, challenging us to live with a spirit of poverty and in solidarity with those who are poor and vulnerable.

Materials Needed

  • Chalkboard and colored chalk or butcher paper and colored markers

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Invite the young people to imagine that they have been commissioned to create a mural depicting the birth of Jesus.

  2. Begin by drawing a stable on the board or on butcher paper.

  3. Invite volunteers to come forward, one at a time, to add other images to the scene.

  4. Continue until all of the following are included: Jesus in a manger, Mary, Joseph, cattle, shepherds, flocks, a star, the Magi, angels.

  5. Say: Our idea of how the birth of Jesus took place actually comes from only two of the Gospels: Matthew and Luke. We tend to mix together the images from these Gospels into one scene, just as we did when we created the mural. Let’s listen to the Gospel for Christmas Midnight Mass to see what images are described.

  6. Invite volunteers to read aloud Luke 2:1-14.

  7. Say: This account of Jesus' birth is from Luke's Gospel. What images in our mural come from this account? (Jesus in a manger, Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, flocks)

  8. Say: Luke’s Gospel tells us that the first visitors were shepherds—common, hard-working laborers. Luke is emphasizing that Jesus has come to bring glad tidings to the poor. Jesus himself is born as one of the poor. As we celebrate Christmas, we remember that, just as Jesus identified with those who are poor, we are called to be poor in spirit and to tend to the needs of those who are poor, because it is among them that we will find Christ.

  9. Pray for the grace to be poor in spirit and to live in solidarity with those who are poor. Conclude by singing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:1-14
Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem as the angel appears to the shepherds.

Family Connection

Christmas has come to be associated as a season of peace. This association and our familiarity with the Christmas story sometimes make us forget about the difficult circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth. As a family, gather around your nativity and carefully read Luke's story of Jesus' birth, Luke 2:1-14. Recall that the manger you see in the nativity set is not in a house, but a stable. The animals you see might have been noisy and may even have smelled unpleasant. Joseph and Mary were far from home in a city that was crowded and under the occupation of foreigners. The shepherds may have been unclean from their time in the fields. Invite each family member to say one thing about the Christmas story that makes an impression upon them.

Conclude by praying together for people in today's world who may experience circumstances like those found in the story of Jesus' birth. Pray for those who are far from home, those who live in fear, those who live in need. Sing together one or more Christmas hymns, such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” or “Angels We Have Heard on High.”