• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (At the Vigil Mass)

“Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus.”

Short Form of the Gospel

Entrance Antiphon: Ex 16:6-7 — “Today you will know that the Lord will come, and He will save us, and in the morning you will see His glory.”

First Reading: Is 62:1-5 — “The Lord delights in you.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29 — “Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord.”

Second Reading: Acts 13:16-17, 22-25 — “Paul bears witness to Christ, the Son of David.”

Alleluia: Alleluia, alleluia. “Tomorrow the wickedness of the earth will be destroyed: the Savior of the world will reign over us.” Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Mt 1:1-25 — (Long Form)“The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David;”Mt 1:18-25 — (Short Form) “Mary will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus.”

Communion Antiphon: Is 40:5 — “The glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see the salvation of our God.”

Good afternoon! Welcome to this opening 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, their families, and their 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 afternoon.

I’d like to relate a story I heard after returning to the seminary after our winter break more than a dozen years ago now. As my classmate related back then, it was Christmas morning and Monsignor Flanagan, the pastor of Saint Patrick Parish in my classmate’s Diocese was very upset. He told us that Monsignor Flanagan found that the statue of the baby Jesus lying in the manger was missing. What had happened? The previous evening at the Midnight Mass, the Murphy family had placed the baby Jesus in the crib, right where He should be. But now He was gone. Why would anyone take the statue? Immediately, Monsignor Flanagan went to his associate, Fr. O’Connor, and asked him if he knew what happened to the statue. The young priest told the pastor that he had no idea what happened. Monsignor Flanagan made a few phone calls to various parishioners he knew well and asked if they knew anything, but the responses were all negative. He called the police, but there had been no report of any break-in at the church ... the burglar alarm never even went off.

So Monsignor Flanagan had no option but to celebrate the Christmas morning Mass without the statue. What would people think of having the creche ... the manger ... and no baby Jesus? Having no other options, the Pastor vested and prepared to celebrate the Christmas morning Mass. As he was preparing himself in the Sacristy, he a heard the church doors open and a rumbling that sounded like a child’s wagon. He looked out into the body of the church and saw Johnny Murphy, the youngest of the Murphy children, walking up the center aisle of the church pulling a red wagon and the baby Jesus was his passenger. The Pastor went to the young man and said, “Johnny, did you take the statue of the baby Jesus?” The young boy answered truthfully, “Yes, Father, I had to take Him for a ride.” The Pastor asked, “Why?” The young man forthrightly said, “Well, I prayed all through Advent to Jesus asking for a red wagon, and when it arrived on Christmas Day, I knew that He had to be the first to ride in it.”

Johnny Murphy had made a promise to Jesus, and he was determined to make good on that promise. The readings for this Vigil Mass for the Solemnity of Christmas tell us how God kept His promise to the world by sending Jesus and how we, as followers of Christ, must keep our Advent promise and welcome in some way the newborn King of the Jews.

The latter chapters of the book of the Prophet Isaiah are the proclamation to the Hebrews after their return from exile in Babylon. God realized that the people needed a message of hope ... that the Lord had not abandoned them. Thus, as we hear, the Prophet tells the people that future peoples will look to Israel as a model. No longer will people call you “Forsaken” or your land “Desolate,” but rather you shall be called “My Delight” and your land, “Espoused.” They shall be a delight in God’s sight. God will not abandon His people.

The ultimate promise of God, which we see played out throughout salvation history – namely, that a Savior would be sent to redeem the world – is fulfilled, as we heard in the Gospel. Traditionally, we would normally hear the whole genealogy according to Saint Matthew ... the history of mankind that leads to the birth of Jesus ... but we still know even without hearing it that God’s promise to the world has been fulfilled.

As we celebrate the birth of our salvation, we must consider, as did Johnny Murphy, how we can fulfill our promises made to the Lord. Whether we realize it or not, on the day we were baptized, we made a promise, through our parents and godparents, to live the Christian life fully, completely, and to the best of our ability. Most of us renewed that promise at our Confirmation and we also renew that promise every Easter. We promised that Christ and His message would be the number one priority in our life ... everything else would be secondary. And so, having just said that, we need to ask ourselves: Have we fulfilled the promise we made as Christians to the best of our ability?

In our society, when we celebrate someone’s birthday, we often give that person a gift. What can we give Jesus on His birthday? I guarantee you that He does not need or want any material thing. The only thing He needs, wants, and expects from us is a better you and me. He expects us to carry out our promise, as did Johnny Murphy – and as did God to the world. What will be our response? It is a question we all must answer! Merry Christmas!

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