By Fr. Andrew Kelly
In the earliest tradition, the believing community celebrated the Lord’s Nativity four times by listening to Matthew, Luke and John’s interpretation of Christ’s birth.
Matthew 1:18-25 is proclaimed in vigil at sunset: “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way.” The birth’s meaning: “… ‘they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’”
At midnight the community listens as Luke (2:1-14) tells the Gospel story about an engaged pregnant woman named Mary who gave birth and “…wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger…”
An angel reveals the birth’s meaning: “…I am bringing you good news of great joy…to you is born …a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
At dawn, Luke (2:15-20) continues telling his story. Shepherds “…went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.” “But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” The community continues Mary’s tradition to this day.
Later on Christmas Day John’s Gospel poem (1:1-18) leads the community into deeper meaning of the birth:
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth …From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
The Lord’s Nativity is such a sumptuous banquet of God’s Word, body and blood that four times on Christmas Day the Lord gathers the community just to sample the rich feast offered by Matthew, Luke and John.