Midnight Mass is a special Christmas Mass. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear is a beautiful Christmas hymn. Midnight is the hour traditionally regarded as the time that Jesus was born.
Midnight receives no mention in the gospel account, but rather, “the night watch” (Lk 2:8). It was the time after sunset and before sunrise, the late-night hours, a time of total darkness.
The darkness of the midnight hour is not only the lack of daylight, it also holds great symbolic significance. Darkness represents sin and the absence of God. “People preferred darkness … because their works were evil” (Jn 3:19). “Everyone who does wicked things hates the light … so that his works might not be exposed” (Jn 3:20). Evil thoughts are dark thinking (Mt 6:23; Lk 11:34). Evil deeds are done under the cover of darkness. When Judas departed from the Last Supper to betray Jesus, “it was night” (Jn 13:30). Jesus explained that “whoever walks in the dark does not know where he is going” (Jn 12:35). Darkness is to walk in the wrong direction, and to stumble and fall.
Police have a saying: “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Late night is the time that most crimes are committed: drunkenness, bar fights, shootings, domestic assaults, robberies, driving while intoxicated, speeding and reckless driving, and car crashes due to impaired judgment.
Immoral behavior is frequently committed under the cover of darkness. Nighttime is the most common time for nightclubs, premarital sex, extramarital sex, one night stands, prostitution, and computer viewing of explicit images.
The world is filled with darkness. There are wars and terrorism, displacement and refugees, famine and disease, poverty and natural disasters. Nationally there is political polarization and racial strife, abortion and violence, corruption and greed. Individually there is family conflict, rejection, gossip, illness, pain, abuse, addiction, disappointment, failure, sadness, and depression. The darkness often feels all-encompassing and overwhelming.
The infant Jesus was born during the night watch, at the time when the darkness is most intense. The timing was no accident. Jesus is the Light of World (Jn 8:12). When Jesus was born, he was the true light coming into the world (Jn 1:9; see also Jn 3:19a). He is “the light [that] shines in the darkness” (Jn 1:5a). Jesus explained, “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in the darkness” (Jn 12:46).
Christmas is a time of tremendous hope. The light has come. Jesus is the great illuminator. He is a beacon of light. Despite whatever darkness there may be in the world, it will not prevail. “The darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5b), not in the past, not now, not in the future, not ever.
Jesus was born at midnight to bring light into our troubled world. His light is so powerful that it outshines all else.