The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day)

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas Day)

December 25, 2023


Discover the deeper meaning and connections found in this week's readings, through these great commentaries written by our priests.

The Word

Explore this week's readings and hear what God is saying to us through His Word.

Liturgy notes

Find out more about how we can mark this special day in our liturgy.


See our music recommendations for the liturgy.


Fr Liam Cummins

What comes to mind when you think about the work of Christmas?

For most of us, I suspect, it’s things like shopping, wrapping presents, decorating, cleaning the house, buying groceries and cooking Christmas dinner. It’s getting ready for Santa and opening presents. It’s getting to church on time for the start of the Christmas Mass. I know for some it’s a lot of work just getting through these days. They’re hard days of grief, sadness, depression. For some the work includes planning the liturgies and preparing homilies. We do a lot of work leading up to and in anticipation of Christmas Eve.

And I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if today, Christmas Day, after the child has been born and after the dishes have been done, there’s a collective sigh of relief that our Christmas work is done. But what if it’s really not? What if that’s when “the work of Christmas begins?”

Christmas is God continuing to give life to his people.

Christmas, says St. Gregory of Nyssa, is the “festival of re-creation.” It is God giving God’s own life to his people. It is as if God said, “I want humanity to see my face. I want them to hear my voice. I want them to touch me. I want them to eat my body. I want to live their life. I want them to live my life.”

This festival of re-creation is God’s celebration of humanity. It is God entrusting God’s self to human beings, to you and to me. It is God’s reaffirmation of humanity’s goodness.

Have you ever loved or forgiven another? Have you ever reached out to another with compassion or gentleness? Have you ever responded with non-violence and peace? Have you ever fed the hungry or cared for the sick? Has someone else ever done those things to or for you?

If you answered yes to any one of those questions then you can also say, “And [once again] the Word became flesh and lived among us.”

This is the gift of Christmas. We have been given the power to become children of God.

Human beings are the tangible, outward, and visible signs and carriers of God’s inward and spiritual presence.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a sacrament? Have you ever looked at someone across the street and said, “Hey, look! There is the sacramental image of God?” Why not? Why do we not see that in ourselves and each other? After all, “The Word became flesh and lived among us.”

The Word became flesh and has never ceased living among us. The Word became flesh and will never cease living among us. So make way. Wherever you go. Whatever you are doing. Whoever you are with. Make way for the image of God. Christmas your way through life!

Christmas Day

Catholicism of the Catholic Church References:
CCC 456-460, 466: "Why did the Word become flesh?"
CCC 461-463, 470-478: the Incarnation
CCC 437, 525-526: the Christmas mystery
CCC 439, 496, 559, 2616: Jesus is the Son of David
CCC 65, 102: God has said everything in his Word
CCC 333: the incarnate Christ worshipped by the angels
CCC 1159-1162, 2131, 2502: the Incarnation and images of Christ

Liturgy notes

Paul Inwood

The recommended time for blessing the Christmas Crib is on the Vigil of Christmas, but for pastoral reasons it may be blessed on Christmas Day too. It fits most comfortably with the Gospel of the Dawn Mass, when a parallel can be drawn: like the shepherds who were called to go to Bethlehem, we are called to go to the crib and pray.

The location of the crib can be an issue. If available, aside chapel is the ideal location. It may be worth recalling what the Book of Blessings has to say (para1544): “If the manger [or Nativity scene] is set up in the church, it must not be placed in the presbyterium. A place should be chosen that is suitable for prayer and devotion and is easily accessible by the faithful.” The rationale behind this includes not obscuring the primary liturgical symbols of altar, ambo and chair in the sanctuary area. There have also been instances of accidents occurring when incensing an altar because of obstacles in front of it. Those churches where the custom is to position a large crib in front of the main altar or the ambo may wish to think again about this.

If an Advent wreath has been used that includes an extra white candle in the centre, representing the incarnation, the additional candle may have been lit at the Christmas Midnight Mass, but it can be lit again today, along with the other candles on the wreath. If practicable, it is good to involve one or more young people with the candle lighting. Following the guidance given in the Book of Blessings (paras 1513-1519) concerning when to light the Advent Wreath, the optimum time to do this on Christmas Day would be either before Mass begins or immediately before the Opening Prayer. No additional texts or prayers are required.

At Christmas we reach the culmination of the season of the Word that is Advent, typified by the prophecies of Isaiah. On Christmas morning Isaiah can at last proclaim that all humankind has seen the salvation of God. The Gospel reading from the Prologue to John’s Gospel is provided in the Lectionary in two forms, the shorter one omitting the paragraphs referring to John the Baptist. It may be thought desirable to have the “fullness of the Word” today and not abbreviate. A song from the Iona Community, “I am for you”, provides a very fitting commentary on this Gospel during the preparation of the gifts instead of the customary carol at this point, and is extremely easy to pick up (the first, second and fourth phrases of the music are identical).

Music recommendations

Laudate Hymnal

Christmas seasonal music can be found from numbers 118 to 123

Christmas hymns can be found from numbers 124 to 164

A few suggested hymns for the Mass on Christmas Day have been selected from a number of different sources:

Hark! the Herald Angels sing (CFE244, L155, LHON317, TCH21

Jesus the Word has lived among us (CFE331, L161, LHON401)

Let all mortal flesh keep silence (CFE355, L607, LHON418, TCH120)

Of the Father's love begotten (CFE562, L160, LHON508, TCH28)

See amid the winter's snow (CFE630, L151)


CFE - Celebration Hymnal for Everyone

L – Laudate

LHON – Liturgical Hymns Old and New (Mayhew,  1999)

TCH – The Catholic Hymnbook (Gracewing)

Any questions?

Do you have questions about the liturgy and how we are called to participate in it? Explore how the Church councils, saints, and popes have answered this key question and many more.

Discover the Mass

Every movement of the Mass is rich in meaning but we can become over-familiar with it. Rediscover the Mass and explore how it relates to the Exodus story, where many of its rituals come from, and how it makes Jesus present to us today.