Christmas morning, 8 am Mass

Deacon Blaine Barclay

Who is this Jesus, who bursts upon the scene of human history this Christmas morning?

You may have come to Church this morning expecting to hear the nativity story.  The story of the birth of Jesus, a long time ago in Bethlehem. It is as if John is saying to us, this story is so familiar to you that you no longer need to hear about shepherds and kings, stars and manger scenes, so let’s go directly to point of it all. So don’t worry, you have come to the mass for the Nativity of the Lord, the mass where the gospel reading is taken from the gospel of John.  The gospel of John doesn’t start off with the birth of Jesus, as do the gospels of Matthew and Luke, or, with the ministry of John the Baptist, as does the gospel of Mark.

The gospel of John goes right to the heart of the matter.  He doesn’t pull any punches, doesn’t beat around the burning bush, so to speak.  Right away he takes off his shoes and invites us in, to stand with him on holy ground.  The gospel of John assumes that we are already familiar with the content of the other three gospels, that we have already been immersed in the waters of the Gospel, have heard the basic proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. So he dives right into the deep end of the pool.  No chance to dip our toes in, or splash water on our face before we jump in with him.  John goes right to the heart of the question.  Who is this naked, vulnerable, child, born to us this Christmas morning?  Who is Jesus?  Not, who was Jesus?  As if this was just an event that took place somewhere in the past.  Because for John this is an ‘is’ question, and not just a ‘was’ question.  And his answer echoes through human history like a bottomless earthquake or an endless tsunami, shattering all our expectations and human constructs.

‘’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….  And the Word became flesh and lived among us’.  So begins the prolog of the gospel of John.  What we have here is a new book of Genesis, for it starts with the very same words, ’in the beginning’.  Do not imagine however, that this is a beginning like other beginnings, for time itself is a creature.  This beginning has no beginning, it is hidden in the eternal, but has become visible for us in the person of Jesus.

‘In the beginning was the Word’.  The Greek word translated here as ‘Word’, is ‘Logos’.  One very recent translator of the New Testament refuses to translate this Greek word. So deep and multilayered are the meanings of this word, ‘Logos’, that he is convinced that no single English word can be used to translate it, that to do so is to so shrink and limit our understanding of its range of meanings that it borders on the idolatrous.  This is something akin to the Jewish reluctance to pronounce or use the name of God.

So, what does this word, ‘Logos’, mean?  And further, what does it mean to say and believe that this Logos became flesh in Jesus of Nazareth?

Logos, can be translated variously as speech, word, reason, ordered account, explanation, meaning, form, intelligible pattern.  In a kind of expanded translation, John is saying that in Jesus, the creating inner meaning and pattern of all things, the inner-connecting glue that holds everything together just the way it is, the primal ordering principle, became flesh, became a concrete human being.  In other words, the whole meaning of life became flesh, became one of us and lived our human life.

That God would become flesh was of course nothing less than a scandal to the ancient way of thinking.  Flesh and Spirit were seen as polar opposites.  This is the scandal of the Incarnation, the scandal of the Cross. The idea that God would take on flesh and death was unthinkable.  But in Jesus God, has embraced the human condition right down to the frail dependency of a newborn infant, and the God- forsakenness of death on a cross.

This is the shattering truth of Christmas morning, empowering us to be bold missionary disciples. It is a long way from the tinsel and frantic consumerism of the mall.  But this is the gift of Christmas, the self-emptying love of God in Christ.  The sheer joy of God’s generosity towards each one of us.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.