• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (At the Mass during the Night)

“Today a Savior has been born for you.”

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 2:7 — “The Lord said to me: You are My Son. It is I who have begotten you this day.”

First Reading: Is 9:1-6 — “A Son is given us.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 96:1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13 — “Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.”

Second Reading: Ti 2:11-14 — “The grace of God has appeared to all.”

Alleluia: Lk 2:10-11 – Alleluia, alleluia. “I proclaim to you good news of great joy: today a Savior is born for us, Christ the Lord.” Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Lk 2:1-14 — “Today a Savior has been born for you.”

Communion Antiphon: Jn 1:14 — “The Word became flesh, and we have seen His glory.”

Good evening! Welcome to this celebration of Christmas here in Franklinville, New Jersey … in the Parish of Saint Michael the Archangel ... Nativity Church. On behalf of myself ... as well as the staff of the Parish and our School, I would like to welcome all of you this evening. Welcome to all parishioners, your families, and your friends. Welcome to all who might be visiting from other parishes. Welcome to all the young people and college students who are home for their semester break. For those of you who may not know me, my name is Fr. Larry Polansky and this is my fourth Christmas here in Franklinville and Clayton. This year has been extraordinary in so many different ways in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and at the outset let me say thank you for beginning your Christmas by being here this evening.

One evening a couple of summers ago, two good friends and I were sitting on the back deck of their home discussing Christmas Day and how we celebrated it when we were younger. We talked about the baking and the decorating and the shopping. We talked about going to Mass … usually Midnight Mass. My friend related a story of one Christmas when her family was completely snowed in and it was impossible for them to get to church. “We had a nice Christmas that year, but it just wasn’t the same because we missed Christmas Masses … it was somehow empty.” I agreed, saying that sometimes the unexpected can drastically alter our well-made plans. That conversation came back to me as I thought back over the past nine months and how life has changed in light of COVID-19 ... talk about a change in plans.

Tonight, we marvel at the grace of this Most Holy Solemnity. With the excitement of children on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, hopefully despite COVID-19, we celebrate and welcome once again the “Christ event,” the birth of Jesus. Can you imagine that God is so much in love with creation that the Son of God becomes incarnate ... fully human and fully divine ... and that He was made fully present to us on that first Christmas long ago … and as we remember tonight He is present to us now and forever?

This is such a beautiful time of year. And I noticed that people started preparing early this year, maybe because of COVID and maybe because of the way things are. All of the traditional decorations are up: trees, lights, tinsel, Christmas crèches, pine boughs, wrapped presents under the family tree, and perhaps in a few hours the aromas of Christmas dinner preparations wafting through the house. For many, it warms the heart and soul. But I think sometimes amid all the festivities, we can often lose sight of the infant lying in the manger. Our exterior decorations are up, but what of our interior decorations? It is easy to become overwhelmed by plans and frustrations. Recently, Pope Francis suggested that perhaps we should imagine ourselves as a quiet pool of water shining like a mirror … nothing disturbs its surface with ripples or waves. It’s a good time to make full use of the Christmas liturgies to take a step away from holiday frustrations and calm yourself. Take refuge in the birth of the Christ Child, and in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Word you hear and in the consecrated bread you will hold in your hands. Allow the peace of Christ to enter once again into your life … calming all of your anxieties … filling you with all that is good.

Christmas is not simply a one-day event. It is an entire Church season. Christmas begins today … but as Christmas day comes to a close tomorrow night, someone is always bound to say, “Well, only 12 more months to Christmas!” If you remember the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” … we go to the traditional date of the Epiphany … January 6th. Liturgically, this year’s Christmas Season goes until January 10th … the Baptism of the Lord. But I ask you to take advantage of this time to continue to celebrate the season. If the festivities of Christmas day did not work out the way you hoped, you still have ample time to celebrate. While the holiday season can wear us down, use this wonderful season to refresh yourself. Keep in mind the still pool of water that Pope Francis mentioned. If you have a Christmas crèche set up in your home, use it as a spiritual oasis. Every time you pass by it, use those seconds or minutes for a sacred pause … Look at the Christ Child … the Holy Family, the colorful characters that make up the scene. Return to the true meaning of Christmas. Commercial television and the constant scream of ads attempt to tell us what we need at this time of year. Mother Church quietly whispers in our ears what is needed and wanting in our lives. Listen for the whisper of the Holy Spirit.

The Christmas season can also be a time of dread for many people. Poverty or the lack of good traditions in their lives make this time of year unbearable. Pray for those who find themselves lost in broken heartedness, loneliness, or addictions. The first witnesses to the birth of Christ were the lowly and overlooked. It made the powerful uneasy. The Real Presence of Jesus is often misunderstood. Those who live in fear or dread of past deeds often feel the most alienated from God when, in fact, God remains close to them. Allow the loving hands of our Creator to embrace you. As the Christ Child was wrapped in swaddling clothes, you are wrapped in God’s grace. Unfortunately, much in modern North American culture carries us further and further from the Good News of the Gospel. Focus on the true meaning of Christmas and return to the Gospel and good, joyful living.

Tonight … as we hear of the coming of our Savior, as we hold Jesus in our hands, welcome the in-dwelling presence of God … allow Him to wrap you in love, peace, and all that is good. May you and your families have a Blessed, Healthy, Safe Christmas Season!

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