Date: Tuesday, December 25, 2018
Each year at Christmas we are invited to visit Bethlehem like the shepherds. Shepherds are a scruffy and smelly bunch belonging to a low estate with sinners and outcasts. Yet while tending sheep in the fields and keeping night watch, an angel of the Lord appears to them with a startling announcement: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was a chorus, a heavenly host, with the angel singing: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The sign is significant! Mary and Joseph swaddle the baby Jesus with a cloth or a blanket. It keeps the baby warm. It is a gesture of love and protection. Then they place the baby in a manger, that is, a feed box or trough for grain for the animals. Do we appreciate the deeper meaning? Jesus comes to us as the bread of life. In the Gospel according to St. Luke Jesus has a special concern for the hungry, for women and children, for the poor, for outcasts and for sinners. Jesus shares (He is) the bread of divine compassion. He will feed the multitude. At the last supper he will take bread and wine and say: “This is my body.” "This is my blood.”
Jesus is born eternally as the Son of Man in the bosom of the Father. Jesus becomes flesh in the womb of Virgin Mary and Jesus is born from the church and in the heart of the faithful. Our response to this mystery is silence. In the depth of our souls we must listen to the gentle whispering sound of God eternally and always uttering “the Word” of divine love and mercy in the person of Jesus Christ.
Like the Shepherds we must leave Bethlehem with the memory of what we have seen and heard, knowing that we are transformed by the encounter. To all we meet, we must share the gift of love, the blessing of hope and the promise of peace.