Consider this, with my emphases and comments:
The Church has four Masses for Christmas – the vigil, Mass at midnight, Mass at dawn [I've never been to a Mass at Dawn; going to Mass at Midnight makes this a little tricky: I need my sleep] and Mass during the day. The readings begin with the human origins of Jesus in Matthew's genealogy (vigil), the account of the birth and the angels (midnight), the visit of the shepherds (dawn) and finally the divine origins of the newborn baby, taken from the magnificent prologue of John's Gospel (day).This is why I love Midnight Mass at Christmas:
The typical parish gets little of this. Some years ago at the 5 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve (about which more later), I did use Matthew's genealogy – to universal complaint. The people wanted the nativity story. So the usual thing found in most parishes today is several vigil Masses on Christmas Eve, none of which use the vigil readings, and all of which are absolutely jam-packed [I use the readings appropriate to the time of day]. There is often no Mass at midnight, and a solitary Mass on Christmas morning, usually poorly attended [this is sadly true; the majority of people seem to want to get Mass "out of the way" so they can focus on presents in the morning].
How we arrived at this position is curious. Many priests consider the vigil Masses – especially the early ones before 7 p.m., sometimes as early as 4 p.m.! – to be pastoral failures, with large congregations but a certain chaotic, distracted quality [while this isn't true of everyone who attends a vigil Mass, there is a certain truth to it across the board]. Pastors know when the Church's liturgy clearly points to the midnight Mass as the high point of the Christmas liturgy, there is something awry with singing "Adeste Fidelis" at 5 p.m.
Midnight Mass is the ultimate sign that we are adjusting our lives to fit Christmas. In the whole year – sacred or profane – no other event begins at midnight. For no other reason do we head out in the middle of the night. In the heart of the night, in the heart of the darkest season, in the heart of the winter bleakness, Catholics gather because they have seen a great light. It is the Christmas tradition par excellence.Patience? Who needs patience?
Why toss it away for greater convenience? Just as the introduction of Saturday evening Masses have made Sunday less central as the Lord's Day, so too the multiplication of Masses on Christmas Eve have stripped Christmas Day of its significance. Christmas Day begins at midnight, and Mass at that hour indicates that the Catholic people are so eager for Christmas that they want to wait not one minute longer than necessary.
I encourage you to read Fr. de Souza's text but, in case you don't, here is his conclusion:
Catholics frequently complain about the secularization of Christmas. There is little we can do about that, but to the extent that we have an alternative to offer, it means becoming more Catholic not less.Amen!