We are once again approaching the hour and moment when the Son of God was born.
I don’t think that I have anything too terribly original to say about this great event and I’m sure wiser and holier people could give you more profound insights than I could. Nevertheless, given the season, I thought it was appropriate to write a few words on the subject.
There are very few things you could do better in the next few days than to read the Holy Scriptures about the birth of Jesus. They can be found the the first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel and Luke’s Gospel. Granted, Luke loves detail so his stories are about twice as long as Matthew’s, but they should only be a few minutes reading. Here are some things that we can reflect on from those stories:
1. History is His Story
Matthew begins his Gospel with Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham. While some people can get lost in the 42 generations, Matthew is giving us an important recap of the events of the Old Testament in a brief way. The names should help us recall the stories of the past and the odd twists and turns that eventually led to Jesus. It should also remind us that even things which seem chaotic or random can be used by the Hand of God to direct history. Who would have thought that the simple romantic tale of Ruth and Boaz could one day lead to the King of Kings?
2. God Speaks, Are We Listening
The Lord announces the Birth of Jesus to Joseph and to Mary in different ways. Joseph receives his message in a dream and Mary is told by the angel. This is an important reminder that while God is always speaking, He does not speak to all of us in the same way. This is why there are so many different methods of prayer for our different capacities to hear the voice of God. God will speaks to us how He will. Our job is to respond with a listening heart, however we encounter Him.
3.The World Bends to God
Caesar Augustus wanted a census of his people. This led to many people being inconvenienced by travel. What are the results of this great census? I have no idea and neither does anyone else. That is because Caesar was acting in a way to bring about the will of God that Jesus’ birth should fulfill the Scriptures. Today we see how the powerful and influential try to marginalize our faith and bully around anyone who clings to the truths of Christianity. We need to remember that God will always bring about good for those who love Him (Romans 8:28). The powerful of the world will always try to get us to bend to them. Christmas reminds us that even when that seems to be the case, it is the world that is bending to God.
4. Openness, not Sinlessness is required.
Remember, there was no room at any of the inns, so Jesus, Mary, and Joseph could not enter. I can think of no better metaphor for the spiritual life. God’s presence is all around us is so many ways. But the main reason we don’t feel it is because we do not let Him in. Our hearts are full of ourselves, our wants, our pleasures, our fears, our hurts, our comforts, and all of the concerns about life that we do not make room for Christ. And He requires a lot of room. One of the reasons why we give things up for Lent is so that we can do a little spiritual spring cleaning and declutter our hearts. Then Christ can enter in. Notice how He is born in the stable, a place filled with beasts with their urine and feces covering the floors. Many of us have stained our souls with our habitual sins and so we feel unworthy of so mighty a Guest. And we are unworthy, but that does not matter. No matter how sinful we are, we need only be open and make room in our hearts that He may enter. And when He does, even a stable becomes holy.
5. A Little Faith Goes A Long Way
When Zechariah finds out about God’s plan for he and his wife to become the parents of John the Baptist, the old man doubts. As a result, he is struck mute. He just received the Good News, but because he does not believe it in his heart, he cannot preach it with authenticity. How many of us preach the morals of the faith while failing to live up to them? Or how often do we tell others to have faith, but we waiver when troubles come our way? It is only when Zechariah speaks the words of the angel in naming his son that his muteness is lifted. We must accept the faith in our hearts to speak it with effect. And the reward for even the smallest act of faith is a deeper revelation of Christ. The shepherds were told to find Jesus in a stable. They could have run away from the angel’s words. But they took a small leap of faith and were blessed to be the first ones outside of the Holy Family to adore the newborn King.
6. Encounter and Change
After the magi adore Jesus, it says that they return home by another way. This was, of course, to avoid the wicked King Herod. But it also reminds us that we know we have really encountered Christ when our lives take a different direction. I tell my students that if their lives are pretty much the same as non-Christians, then something has gone horribly wrong with their faith. And I tell them if they say they have encountered Christ, but their lives have remained the same, then maybe they really haven’t met Him after all. A real encounter with the Lord is a wonderful and horrifying experience, much like falling in love: your whole world gets turned upside down. A good gauge of if you’ve encountered more of Christ in your life is to reflect on how much of a different path your life has taken.
7. Joy at Christ Manifest
Jesus was present in the womb of Mary and the joy of that presence filled Elizabeth and her unborn child John. For nine months Jesus was hidden in that womb until He was revealed to the world in Bethlehem. Many of the people we encounter on a daily basis may not be outwardly manifesting Jesus in their lives. In fact, we sometimes feel the effects of their bad habits and vices as we encounter them day after day. But it is important to remember that as he was hidden in the Virgin Mary’s womb, Christ is hidden in the hearts of all those around us. In my ministry of teaching religion, I try to remind myself that I am not someone who is introducing my students to Christ from without like a matchmaker. I am a midwife, who is trying to bring forth the Christ that lives within them, hidden from even themselves. But if I can help them see Him, help them experience Him manifested in their own lives, then the joy that comes forth is beyond compare. Remember that today as we encounter those who are not in the “Christmas spirit:” Christ is there in their hearts, waiting to be born.
Copyright 2018, WL Grayson