O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Saviour. O come and save us, Lord, our God.
It is only two more sleeps till Christmas! What we are celebrating has different names in different parts of the world. English speakers usually call it ‘Christmas’, coming from old English around the early 11th century – ‘The Mass of Christ’.
The feast was not celebrated in the early Church. Christians of that time were little interested in the birth of Jesus and were more interested in conforming to the openness found in his adult life and death, and which was poured out on them through his glorious resurrection.
While there are some references to the feast by the beginning of the 3rd century, it is most likely the feast did not become widespread until the 4th century. We don’t know the date of Jesus’ birth so there are many theories about why December 25 was chosen. One opinion is that the Christian feast absorbed the annual festivals that occurred with the celebration of the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice.
The feast received a new lease of life in the 13th century when St. Francis of Assisi built a crib (crèche) so that the local people might better understand God entering into our human condition. The crib captured people’s imagination, especially the children’s, and it remains a favourite today. Last century Christmas took on a strong commercial tack making it more popular but blurring its significance.
The main point of Christmas is this: God so loved the world that he sent his only Son born of a woman. The God of the universe enters the human condition pitching his tent among all peoples for all times. God partners humanity as one of us.
St. Alfonso de Liguori, founder of the Redemptorists, wrote a beautiful carol (Italy’s most popular) highlighting the humanity of Jesus. (Carol below)
There is no difference in the Lord’s sight between one day and a thousand years; to him the two are the same. The Lord is not slow to do what he has promised, as some think. Instead, he is patient with you, because he does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants all to turn away from their sins.- 2 Peter 3:8b-9
Almighty God, the birthday of your Son is drawing near. We pray that your eternal Word, who took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and came to dwell among human persons, will show the world the greatness of his love and mercy. He lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever. Amen.
The trees are whis’pring a secret- From the Australian carol “Sing Gloria” by John Wheeler
from twilight to dawn;
the Lord who planted the Bushland
tomorrow is born:
Sing Gloria! Sing Gloria! Sing Gloria in excelsis
Sing Gloria! Sing Gloria! Sing Gloria in excelsis.
St. Alfonso de Liguori, 1696-1787, Doctor of the Church and founder of the Redemptorists, was an apostle of God’s love. Here is one of his compositions – the Neapolitan carol (1755), “Quanno nascette Ninno”, from the Ensemble Accordone with Guido Morini Conducting from the harpsichord, Marco Beasley (tenor), Enrico Gatti (violin I), Rossella Croce (violin II), Claudia Combs (violin III). Judith M. Becker (violoncello), Stefano Rocco (guitar & archlute), Franco Pavan (theorbo) sung in the original style of the Neapolitan baroque (lyrics below).
In 1870 St. Alphonsus’ carol, “Quanno nascette Ninno”, was translated into Italian by Pope Pius IX and as ‘Tu scendi dalle stelle’ became Italy’s most popular. It is sung here in a contemporary arrangement by a choir of children (lyrics below).
|From starry skies descending,
Thou comest, glorious King,
A manger low Thy bed,
In winter's icy sting;
O my dearest Child most holy,
Shudd'ring, trembling in the cold!
Great God, Thou lovest me!
What suff'ring Thou didst bear,
That I near Thee might be!
|Thou art the world's Creator,
God's own and true Word,
Yet here no robe, no fire
For Thee, Divine Lord.
Dearest, fairest, sweetest Infant,
Dire this state of poverty.
The more I care for Thee,
Since Thou, O Love Divine,
Will'st now so poor to be.
To know more about St. Alphonsus click HERE
* The seven ‘O Antiphons’ (they each begin with ‘O’) are age-old songs that are part of the Catholic Church’s liturgy for Evening Prayer. Each evening, for Advent’s last eight days leading up to Christmas, one of the antiphons is sung. Each antiphon addresses Jesus with a unique title taken from the Prophet Isaiah.