Nativity of the Lord Christmas Vigil Mass

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)—Vigil Mass

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


Today's Readings


First Reading
Isaiah 62:1-5
The Lord delights in his people.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 89:4-5,16-17,27,29
The goodness of the Lord is praised.

Second Reading
Acts of the Apostles 13:16-17,22-25
God chose the people of Israel, and from them he raised up Jesus, the Savior for all people.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 1:1-25 (or the shorter form, Matthew 1:18-25)
After being visited by an angel in a dream, Joseph takes Mary as his wife.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today's liturgy offers the option to read a longer or shorter form of the Gospel. If we read the longer form, we hear Matthew recount the ancestry of Jesus. This genealogy sets Jesus' birth within the context of the history of Israel, highlighting two of Jesus' ancestors—Abraham, the father of the Hebrew people, and David, the most important king of Israel. Jesus' ancestral lineage reinforces a central theme of Matthew's Gospel: Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies made to the people of Israel.

The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus from Joseph's perspective. During his betrothal to Mary, Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant. Betrothal in first-century Jewish culture was more than an engagement period; it was part of the marriage contract. A breach of this contract was considered adultery. If adultery was proved, the punishment might be death. Joseph had rights under Mosaic Law, but he chose to act discreetly in his plans to break the marriage contract so as to protect Mary. The way that Joseph and Mary faced these extraordinary circumstances tells us much about these holy people and their faith in God.

The message the angel gave to Joseph in a dream reveals many important theological details about the child Mary will bear and about the child's role in God's plan. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. His name will be Jesus, which in the Hebrew means “God saves.” He will be the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. He will be Emmanuel, “God with us.” This is the mystery we celebrate at Christmas, the Incarnation. God chose to become a human being in the person of Jesus.

Joseph did as the angel of the Lord directed. He took Mary to be his wife and accepted the child in her womb as his own. When Jesus was born, Joseph followed the directions of the angel and gave the child the name Jesus. We often recall Mary's cooperation in God's plan for our salvation. Today's Gospel reminds us of Joseph's important role, which was also crucial to God's plan for Jesus' birth. 


Gospel Reading
Matthew 1:1-25 (or the shorter form, Matthew 1:18-25)
After being visited by an angel in a dream, Joseph takes Mary as his wife.


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

Help younger children appreciate the joy and wonder we feel at Christmas knowing that God loves us so much that he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins.

Materials Needed

  • a recording of Silent Night (optional)

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Invite children to sing Silent Night with you. If children do not know the words, have them sing each line after you, or invite them to hum along to a recording. 
  2. Ask: Whose birth do we celebrate at Christmas? (Jesus Christ’s) Say: Jesus is our Savior. We rejoice because God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to save us from our sins.
  3. Ask: Who were Jesus’ mother and foster father? (Mary and Joseph) Say: Before Jesus was born, an angel of God gave Joseph a message in a dream. Listen to the message.
  4. Read aloud today's Gospel in its shorter form, Matthew 1:18–25.
  5. Ask: What name did Mary and Joseph give their son? (Jesus) Say: Jesus is also called Emmanuel. Ask: Does anyone remember from the reading what Emmanuel means? (God with us.) Say: We celebrate Jesus’ birth because God became man and was with us in the world. Jesus loves us and is always with us. Let’s pray together and show God our joy and thanks for the gift of salvation through his Son, Jesus!
  6. Conclude in prayer. Have children repeat after you: “Christ our Savior is born! Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice.* Amen.”
*Psalm 96:11


Gospel Reading
Matthew 1:1-25 (or the shorter form, Matthew 1:18-25)
After being visited by an angel in a dream, Joseph takes Mary as his wife.


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

It is important that we lead children to an understanding of the profound meaning of Christmas. Christ's birth changed the world because he was born as Emmanuel, “God with us,” who will save us from our sins.

Materials Needed

  • Lyrics to some familiar Christmas hymns

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the group to name some familiar Christmas hymns. Work together, perhaps in small groups, to identify some of the names for Jesus that we hear in these hymns of the Christmas season. (In Silent Night, Jesus is named Holy Infant, Son of God, Christ, and Savior; in Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Jesus is named newborn King, Lord, Incarnate Deity, Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, and Son of Righteousness.). Talk together about what these names for Jesus say about who Jesus is for us.

  2. Say: In today's Gospel we hear about the angel's message to Joseph in a dream that announced Jesus' birth. In this message, Joseph is told the name that he is to give to Jesus, and we are told the meaning of this name. Let's listen carefully to this Gospel so that we can talk about the importance of Jesus' name.

  3. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud today's Gospel in its shorter form, Matthew 1:18-25.

  4. Ask: Joseph is told to name Mary's child Jesus. The angel tells us why. What does the angel say? (The angel says that the child should be named Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.). Say, In Hebrew, the name Jesus means “God saves.” This Gospel also quotes a prophet, giving Jesus another name. What is this name? (Emmanuel) What does the Gospel tell us this name means? (“God is with us”)

  5. Say: From these names given to Jesus, we learn two important things about him. What are they? (We learn that Jesus will save people from their sins and that Jesus will be God among us.) The mystery we celebrate at Christmas, that God became a human being to save us from our sins, is called the Incarnation. Jesus' birth was one of the most important events in history because Jesus brought salvation to the world.

  6. Conclude in prayer together, thanking God for the gift of salvation through Jesus. Choose one of the Christmas hymns you discussed above to sing together as a prayer. Pray together the Glory Be to the Father.

 


Gospel Reading
Matthew 1:1-25 (or the shorter form, Matthew 1:18-25)
After being visited by an angel in a dream, Joseph takes Mary as his wife.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Young people at this age often experience anxiety and fear, despite their efforts to show fearlessness. The birth of Emmanuel gives us reason to rejoice, for all fear is wiped away. We are not alone.

Materials Needed

  • None

Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the young people to name some movies that they think are scary.

  2. Point out that many of these movies rely on settings that are dark because many people are scared of the dark.

  3. Mention that children often don't want to be left alone in the dark and that their fear lessens when someone stays with them.

  4. Explain that God has made his presence known to his people throughout the ages so that they would not be afraid.

  5. Say: In the Gospel for the Vigil Mass for Christmas, we learn that one of the names that we use to refer to Jesus is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

  6. Invite a volunteer to read aloud the Gospel for the Vigil Mass for Christmas, Matthew 1:18-25.

  7. Ask the young people what the angel's first words to Joseph were. (“Joseph, Son of David, do not be afraid.”). Tell the young people that one of the phrases that appears most often in the Bible is the phrase “Do not fear” and variations such as “Be not afraid,” “Fear not,” and “Have no fear.”

  8. Say: As we celebrate Christmas, we are joyful because we know that we have no reason to fear. We have Emmanuel—God is with us.

  9. Conclude in prayer together, thanking God for the gift of Emmanuel. Pray together the Glory Be to the Father.


Gospel Reading
Matthew 1:1-25 (or the shorter form, Matthew 1:18-25)
After being visited by an angel in a dream, Joseph takes Mary as his wife.


Family Connection

Knowing your family history is important in establishing your identity. The longer form of today's Gospel lists many of the ancestors of Jesus and serves to establish Jesus' place in the history of Israel. Many important figures from the Hebrew Scriptures are named in this genealogy: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, Jesse, David, and Solomon, among many others. From among these names, however, two are highlighted: Abraham, the father of the Israelites because of God's promise to raise from his descendants a great nation, and David, the king who united the tribes of Israel and from whose descendants the Messiah would arise.

After you gather as a family, talk about the importance of your family's history. Recall where your ancestors came from. Tell some important stories from your family's history. In today's Gospel, we hear about Jesus' ancestors. Read today's Gospel, Matthew 1:1-25. Which names do you recognize from Hebrew Scripture? What do you know about these people? From this family history, we learn that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promise to raise up a savior from the people of Israel. Conclude in prayer together thanking God for the gift of our Savior, Jesus, who saves us from our sins. Sing together one or more favorite Christmas hymns. Pray together the Glory Be to the Father.