Did you know of the three Christmas Masses – Midnight; Dawn; Morning – each with its own liturgy?

The Midnight Mass is also called ‘the Angel’s Mass’; the second, ‘the Shepherd’s Mass’; and the third ‘King’s Mass’.

Although all readings are on the theme of hope, light and salvation, each of the three Masses has its own focus and all of them worth reflecting upon.

The First Reading is always from the Book of Isaiah, who is the Prophet par excellence of the Messiah and the Good News. The Second Reading of the first two Masses comprise passages from St Paul’s Letter to Titus whereas the Morning Mass is taken from the Letter to the Hebrews. The Gospel of the first two Masses is from St Luke, while the daytime Mass reads from St John.

The Lectionary carries a note: “For pastoral reasons, one or other of the three Masses may be used at any hour.


Why a Mass at midnight? It is traditionally believed that Jesus was born at midnight. The physical darkness is a reminder of the spiritual darkness we are steeped in, a darkness that only Christ the Light of the World can dispel.

The First Reading (Is 9: 2-4, 6-7) states: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” The prophecy is specific to Israel, whose king, Ahaz, had entered into alliances with kings instead of with the King of Kings. Isaiah announced to the hapless nation that the royal line would produce a descendant that would save them. Ahaz’s son Ezekiah was indeed a righteous king, but the adjectives describing him – “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” – are infinitely more apt for Jesus Christ the Messiah, a descendant of the Royal House of David.

The Gospel account (Lk 2: 1-14) is about the humble birth of Our Lord, proof enough that the His government would be of the spiritual realm. That “there was no place for them in the inn” tells us of how the rich and mighty would reject Him, as they still do. No wonder, the poor shepherds were the first to be invited to visit the Divine Babe in Bethlehem.

After the Fall, there was a chasm between God and man. The Son of God came to overcome that barrier, yet we vacillate when it comes to things divine. Nowadays, when under the guise of secularism, the world is steeped in irreligion and passions, let us heed St Paul’s advice to Titus (2: 11-14): “… live sober, upright and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

In this dark world, then, Christmas comes with a message of light and hope for humankind.


The Mass at dawn commemorates the shepherds’ early and eager visit to adore the Lord in the manger. As natural light increases at dawn, those who believe in the Lord are blessed with His gift of light.

In the First Reading (Is 62: 11-12, Isaiah announces the good news of salvation to the daughter of Zion, that is, Jerusalem, or the Jewish people. Or, as the luminous Psalm says, “This day a new light will shine upon the earth: the Lord is born to us.” This light will shine on the just, and joy will belong to the upright of heart.

The Gospel (Lk 2: 15-20) tells us that the lowly – represented here by the shepherds, who were considered the scum of the earth – are the upright of heart: they see with eyes of faith, and they glorify and praise God. Like little children, it is the lowly who are apt to inherit the kingdom of God.

Yet, we are never worthy. As St Paul says to Titus (3: 4-7): “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, He saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy.” Our baptism, then, is the dawn of a new life of the spirit.


The third and final Christmas Mass is celebrated in broad daylight, symbolising the promised Son of God Who has been revealed to the world. The Gospel reading is a standing invitation to all nations to worship the new-born King of Kings, hence the name ‘King’s Mass’.

The First Reading (Is 52: 7-10) announces the Good News to Israel, and eventually, to “all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of the world.” How happy we should consider ourselves to be included in that number, thanks to the Apostles who visited our subcontinent way back in the first century (Kerala, Tamil Nadu) and later, other proclaimers of the Word, from the sixteenth century onwards (Goa and surrounding areas).

The Gospel (Jn 1: 1-18) strikes a somber note, that is, nevertheless, thought-provoking: “The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world, He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew him not.”

How true that is of our world, two millennia after the Birth of Jesus. We know Him not, and those who are privileged to know, care not! “He came to his own home, and His own received Him not.” Jesus came to save Israel, and they rejected Him; He wants us to announce the Good News to the world, and what do we do?

How can we despise God Who has stretched out His hand to humankind?

The Second Reading (Heb 1: 1-6) emphasizes how “in many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son… He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his Word of power.” Let us acknowledge Him duly and gratefully.

This Christmas let us reflect on the power and glory of God and how we are privileged to inherit His light on earth and everlasting life in Heaven. Let us rise above matter and embrace the spirit; let us look beyond the physical and gaze at the supernatural; let us put the pettiness of the world behind us and live like the angels on high. Thanks to the Holy Catholic Church, the ineffable mystery of Christmas stays with us through the year.