Christmas. The Christ Mass. The mass where we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christ, the King. People talk about the true meaning of Christmas. Well what we'll be doing tonight or tomorrow is the literal meaning of the word, the Christ Mass!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh - became human - and lived among us. What does all that mean, and why is Christmas so important in Christianity? Here's a suggestion. When we talk about someone's word, we can mean two things. First, it's what they have to say, their words, their message. Second, it's their promise. They give their word. What God has to say, and what God promises us, was born in that stable in Bethlehem.
There are two Gospel readings for the Christ Mass. The one from St Luke tells the story that we all know - the Roman census, Joseph and pregnant Mary travelling a long way to a packed town, no room at the inn, sleeping in a stable, Mary giving birth to Jesus there and using an animal food trough as a cot, a host of angels praising God before shepherds. That's the great story. But that baby born in a stable is what God has to say, and what God promises us.
Born in a stable. Hunted by the authorities and a refugee as a child. Misunderstood. Rejected. In spite of that, a healer. A truth-teller. A teacher. Finally betrayed, captured, tortured and murdered by those in power. The powers of the world threw everything they had at him - mocked him, called him a demon, accused him of blasphemy, treated him as a violent revolutionary and dealt with him brutally. Or so they thought. The story doesn't end there. Raised from the dead. Ascended to Heaven in glory. His followers understood the Word, the message, the promise (and there are two billion of us today and many more who hear that same message in other religions) - This in a nutshell is what God has to say: "The Word became flesh and lived among us" not in a palace, not in luxury, but in a difficult life with hard times and eventually a nasty end. With us. But in spite of it all, he healed people. He spoke the truth. He taught. And in the end he rose from the dead and won and this is God's promise - "The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it." God is with us, wherever we are. God is on our side. God loves us. Goodness will win out over evil. Whatever the world throws at us.
This is the Word of God.