Early this morning I attended mass at my wife’s childhood church in Syracuse. It was truly a Midnight Mass that began at the strike of midnight. It is a Roman Catholic congregation still getting used to the new liturgy. Like many churches it was filled with folks who obviously hadn’t been in church in awhile, along with the regulars.
The liturgy is not unlike what we would do at St. Andrew’s on the Hill, and not terribly different than most of the services I led in various United Methodist churches over the years. We read the same scriptures, sang some of the same hymns, we would share the bread and wine, and the mysteries of the faith would be proclaimed and presented for the church and world once again.
God’s coming on our midst can’t be experienced in words alone, there needs to be smells (and believe me, the incense was fragrant throughout the sanctuary last night), tastes (bread and wine), sights (the banners, the candles, the greenery), touches (from the peace to holding hands at the Lord’s Prayer), and sounds (beautiful Glorias resounding from the choir and congregation).
The Gospel Lesson may be the same one we read every year, but it shares this basic truth–God chose to live among us and life will never be the same, ever again.
1 In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists.2 This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria.3 Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.4 Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea.5 He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant.6 While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby.
7 She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.
Announcement to shepherds
8 Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night.
9 The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people.11 Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord.12 This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.”13 Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said,
14 “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”
May the peace of the Christ Child enfold us all this day…Gloria in excelsis deo!