Grace: To know the Divine King who has become a newborn child for me; to love Him and follow Him in His poverty, humility, docility and patience; to serve Christ’s people who find themselves at the mercy of others, outcast and without security.
Text for Prayer: Lk. 2:1-20
Reflection: Children everywhere love Christmas, for obvious reasons. They get a break from school, they are on the receiving end of gift exchanges, and everything seems alive with decorations of angels blasting trumpets over the heads of Mary, Joseph and a host of barn animals encircling the infant Jesus. What could be more fun? But from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 80 miles of hard road. Imagine the troubled mind of Mary, certainly familiar with the prophet Micah’s inspired words: “And thou, Bethlehem (meaning, the House of Bread) Ephrata, art a little one among the thousands of Judah: out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be the ruler in Israel: and his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). Can Mary be confident that, under the edict of Caesar, this virgin-birth will fulfill the prophet’s words when she and Joseph face no fanfare in Bethlehem? There isn’t so much as a place to sleep apart from one fit for animals. Can Joseph feel pride in his responsibility towards Mary and his adopted child when he, the carpenter, can procure only a shabby roof and a manger to lie in? Can their kinfolk not provide anything better for the arrival of the King of Kings? How frustrated and humiliated the couple must feel, able to cling to nothing save their trust in God and His mysterious ways.
But that trust is enough, fitting even, for the God who has taken the form of us sinners. Perhaps Mary and Joseph manage a smile and recall, as the infant Jesus is placed in a food trough for beasts of burden, the old proverb: “Where there are no oxen, the crib is empty: but where there is much corn, there the strength of the ox is manifest” (Proverbs 14:4). And now the baby Jesus lies there, still and quiet. Christ is there in the manger out of love for me! How can my cold heart not be drawn to His? How can my world not shrink to nothing more than this crib? How can my eyes not become fixed on this tiniest of heroes? Notice the Great Teacher’s first sermon: He lies in the manger, completely at the mercy of those around him, completely accepting of the humble surroundings, completely one of us. This is preaching! He elected poverty over riches, pain over comfort, and contempt over honors. This is also what he asks of his closest companions.
Christ’s long march to the Cross begins here, in the manger. This is His Kingdom. He shows us His throne, His Kingdom’s flag, the weapons his soldiers must use. He calls us to follow and demands that we also be converted and become like children (Mt. 18:3). Bethlehem, this House of Bread, is always with us. Christ, as food for the world lying in a manger, can be found in our Churches where we celebrate the Mass. Just as His infant tears say more than words ever could, He speaks to our hearts from the altar and the tabernacle. And we respond as the angels did with “Gloria in Excelsis Deo, Glory to God in the highest” (Lk. 2:14). Then we set out, nourished and renewed once more, side by side with Christ, to minister to the least of God’s people.
Prayer: Oh my Jesus, You are infinitely lovable. In heaven You are God’s Eternal Son and adored upon a throne fit for a Divine King. On earth, You are Mary’s Humble Son, surrounded by scarcity, humiliation, helplessness and confusion. Make me like You while I am in this life so that I might know You and love You and serve You and join You in the next life where
Your Kingdom reigns. Amen.