Jesus' birth is news for the world
By Father Paul Turner
Catholic Key Scripture Columni
The Good News for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 22, 2002
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Romans 16: 25-27
Luke 1: 26-38
and the Feast of Christmas, Wednesday, December 25, 2002
Psalms 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6
The meaning of Christmas is sung in all the responsorial psalms at Mass over the next few weeks. Think of these psalms in three groups: those for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and the Christmas Vigil Mass, those for Christmas Day, and those for Holy Family this year.
The responsory for the Fourth Sunday of Advent and the Christmas Vigil come from the same psalm this year. The first reading next Sunday relates a conversation between King David and the prophet Nathan (2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16). David wants to build a temple, a house for God. But Nathan tells David God will build a "house" for him. "Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever." God also says of David's heir, "I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me." God fulfills this promise in Jesus, the divine Son and eternal king, born in the line of David.
The psalm (89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29) practically quotes the first reading: "I have sworn to David my servant: forever will I confirm your posterity and establish your throne for all generations." And, "He shall say of me, 'You are my father.'"
This psalm returns on Christmas Eve (89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29). The only change is in the middle verses: "Blessed the people who know the joyful shout; in the light of your countenance, O Lord, they walk." Note the reference to light. In the first reading (Isaiah 62:1-5), the prophet looks for a day when Jerusalem's vindication will shine "like the dawn." Into the darkness of Christmas Eve comes Jesus, the Light of the World.
The refrain on both days is, "Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord." We believe in God's goodness and that we will sing of it forever. God's throne endures forever and our place in God's reign is established forever through Christ.
The second group of responsorial psalms is the series for Christmas Day (96, 97 and 98). All three sing of God's enthronement as Israel's king. They are applied to the reign of the King of Kings, Jesus Christ.
At midnight Mass we sing from Psalm 96 (1-2, 2-3, 11-12, 13) with a refrain from Luke (2:11). The psalmist bids all lands to tell of God's wondrous deeds among all the nations. The birth of Jesus is not just news for his family. It is news for the entire world. The psalmist continues: "Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them." Not just all people, but all creation rejoices in God. Why? "For he comes; he comes to rule the earth." All through Advent we have awaited Christ's coming. Now, in the dark of midnight, "he comes" and we rejoice.
The refrain announces the reason for this joy: "Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord." Note the present tense. Christ is born here in the midst of the faithful who gather at midnight.
The Mass at dawn takes its psalm from 97 (1, 6, 11-12), which sings of God's supremacy over all the earth. "Light dawns for the just," the psalmist sings, appropriately for the Mass at dawn. This refrain also uses present tense: "A light will shine on us this day: the Lord is born for us."
The Christmas Mass during the day uses Psalm 98 (1, 2-3, 3-4, 5-6), which sings of God's salvation. Remember, the name "Jesus" means "savior." The refrain goes, "All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God." The carol "Joy to the World" is based on this psalm.
Holy Family Sunday this year offers a choice of responsorial psalms: 128:1-2, 3, 4-5; or 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9. The first sings of family life. "Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine; your children like olive plants" - meaning numerous. This psalm is one of those recommended for weddings.
Psalm 105 recalls the God's covenant with Israel. It appears on Holy Family Sunday when the first reading tells of Abraham because the selected verses of the psalm recall his covenant. "God remembers forever the covenant made binding for a thousand generations, entered into with Abraham." Those generations of families climax with the holy family.
The psalms we sing over the next few weeks proclaim the central mystery of Christmas: Jesus, fully human and fully divine, is king.
Father Paul Turner is the pastor of St. Munchin Parish, Cameron, and coordinates The Good News column for The Catholic Key.