A Graduate School of Theology and Ministry

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day): Mass at Dawn

December 25, 2022

Lectionary 15:

Isa 62:11-12

Ps 97:1, 6, 11-12

Titus 3:4-7

Luke 2:15-20

Possible preaching themes:

  • The immensity of God vs. the smallness of a baby.
  • God is “growing” both in ways that exceed the expansion of the universe, as well as – literally – growing as a baby.
  • The love of God revealed in the Incarnation.


Scientific Resources:




Homily outline combining sources:


The immensity of God’s universal love:

  • The universe is huge, but God is yet larger, filling all things.
  • How and why does such immensity become located in the person of a baby? There can be but one theological answer:
  • Love is the binding agent that ties the events (shepherds, angel choirs, pregnancy) to its meaning (incarnation, redemption, salvation).
  • Science is discovering that “love” includes a host of brain functions for human beings.
  • God’s love may include such physiological phenomena, but God’s love cannot be reduced to such things. God’s love must be more than human/scientific understandings of “love.”


An Expansive yet Intimate God:

  • Science informs us that the universe is expanding.
  • Ironically, in the incarnation, God quite literally becomes
  • Two things can be true at once:
    • God is always larger than the expanding universe.
    • In the incarnation, God’s historical presence in Jesus is physically smaller than the universe.
    • This condescension is an act of love and enables divine intimacy at a very human level.


We form meaning one bite of information at a time:

  • Such large expanses of space cannot be comprehended by the human mind.
  • We have to perceive certain “chunks” of information and then relate them to other stimuli.
  • Similarly, God – who is yet larger – cannot be comprehended by the human mind.
  • For the Incarnation to mean anything to us, it has to be digested in small pieces.
  • The things of earth fill the Christmas story in order to help us digest it:
    • Pregnancy (“…eternity shut in a span”);
    • Mary, who has to make sense of all of this one step at a time;
    • Shepherds who are given a specific task: go find the child;
    • Later, the Magi witness the immensity of the heavens reorganizing itself to point to the Incarnation.
  • Did the vastness of space reorganize itself to pay homage to the Incarnation? Christians say yes.


Light reaching forward and backwards

  • Many of the readings today deal with the concept of light or seeing (First Reading, Psalm, Second Reading, and Gospel).
  • Light from stars that we see in the universe today is the physical record of something that has already happened.
  • This means that what we understand as “cosmic history” is not linear, since the images we receive through the Hubble and James Webb telescopes – like an exploding nova – are records of events that have already happened. Light is actually a kind of cosmic time machine.
  • Similarly, the yearly celebrations of Christmas are a religious way of “seeing” an event that has happened, yet an event that is being experienced right now.
  • The medieval Church understood this well in its celebrations of the Annunciation: salvation was as good as “done” the moment that Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary;
    • The grace of the historical birth of Jesus thus reaches forward (to now),
    • and backward, clearly to the Annunciation, but one could argue even farther
    • for in the beginning was the Word (John 1:1).
  • Science is learning to speak of time reversing itself.
    • The Christmas story is full of reversals as well:
      • the angels go back into heaven;
      • the shepherds change the course of a normal evening (tending the sheep) to go to Bethlehem;
      • God comes extra nos from divine omnipotence to condescended smallness;
    • Easter is the same: saving what comes after it, as well as saving what came before it.
      • In this way, Easter and Christmas are two sides of the same coin: salvation. Do not forget that they are related!
    • God is only God in self-disclosure: we would know nothing of God were God not interested in letting us know something.
      • The shepherds themselves say this (“…which the Lord has made known to us.”)
    • To “know” anything about God is, like light, an illumination of understanding: an understanding of what has happened and an understanding of what is happening!


The Incarnational Mission

  • A key way that the gift of incarnation shines forward is through the baptized.
  • We are the embodiment of the Christ light, so needed to shatter the darkness of prejudice and violence in our own time.
  • As we celebrate the expanding mystery of God’s presence, that fills all of the cosmos,
  • We also recognize that that same illuminating presence fills each of us, as tiny as we might appear in the history of salvation.
  • Thus this holy morning we not only celebrate this immense gift of cosmic light that still engulfs us,
  • But also commit ourselves to its expansion in our communities and in the world.


Poetic musing: so with the poet we give thanks:


“Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span;
Summer in winter; day in night;
Heaven in earth, and God in man.
Great little one, whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth.”

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