Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent
2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16, Luke 1:67-79
Ever since I was a child, Christmas Eve was special. We would put the final touches on the tree decorations and prepare the dining room table for the special evening supper (Wigelia). Today we recall the journey of Mary and Joseph to the city of David. Knowing that her time of confinement was coming to an end, she sought a suitable place to give birth to Israel’s long-awaited king. Today we recall how this anxious couple sought a place of welcome, but no door was open to them. These wayfarers in a strange land had nowhere to lay their heads. This night, the words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled, “The ox knows its master” (Is. 1:3). After finding no suitable housing among men, the couple from Nazareth found welcome in the ox’s stable.
I remember how, after the table was set, the children were sent outside to watch the evening sky for the appearance of the first star. This tradition commemorates the shepherds who kept watch by night and the star that the Wise Men to the birthplace of the newborn King. As the Psalmist writes: “The heavens declare the glory of God and the skies proclaim the work of His hands” (Ps. 19:1). As we watched for the appearance of the star, we recalled how Mary, in the stillness of that night, prepared to give birth to the Light of the world in whom was the fullness of the Father’s glory (CF Col. 2:9). On this night, we all watch and wait for Mary to give birth to the beloved Son of God who was the Creator of the universe and all it contains. Having seen the star, we gathered to celebrate the birth of the Light of the World (CF Mat. 2:2).
Gathered around the supper table, we proclaim the dawn of redemption inaugurated by Christ. As members of the family of God, we give thanks for the holy night that shines with the brightness of the heavenly light that shines on the face of Christ. On this holy night, we recall the birth of the Light of life who is also the Bread of Life. At the beginning of the meal, my mother would hand dad a plate of Christmas wafers, called “oplatki” that he broke so that each person at the table got a piece. Having received our piece of the Bread of Angels, we proceeded to share it with each person gathered at the table. One of the wafers in the packet was pink. This wafer was for the animals, recalling how the ox offered his manger to be a resting place for the newborn king. Recalling the opening lines of Psalm 19, according to legend, the animals were allowed to declare the wondrous birth with the rest of creation. This tradition of blessing, breaking and sharing the Christmas wafer at the family table in preparation for the blessing, breaking, and sharing of the Eucharistic bread at the Christmas Mass.
The message of the gospel resonates in all the family Christmas traditions. The proclamation of the gospel announces the dawning of a new day. It calls us to be bearers of light to those who sit in darkness. It invites us to join all of creation in celebrating the Lord’s faithfulness to His promise. O Lord, hear the prayers of the people you have gathered here, May those who rejoice at the coming of your Beloved Son in our flesh gain the reward of eternal life when he comes in glory.