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The Richest Blessings of the Nativity of Christ

“In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered.  This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.  All went to their own towns to be registered.  Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child.  While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped Him in bands of cloth, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom He favors!’”  (Luke 2:1-14)

These words, which are at the same time old and also quite new, will be read during the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity.  They speak to us, saying that Jesus is both God and man.  He was born into the world like any human child.  The time for His birth came and He entered into the world.  He was cared for by Mary and Joseph.  He needed to be kept warm, fed and clothed.  But there is also something much greater about this birth as well. Jesus is not only human, but He is divine as well.  He is not only the son of Mary, but also the Son of God.  The birth of Jesus, the Messiah, was announced to the entire world by the angels who sent this message to the shepherds living outside of the city of Bethlehem.

This message sent to the shepherds still has much to tell us about the way in which our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ interacts with us.  First of all there is an encounter with the miraculous.  For the shepherds in the field that night, they were probably just expecting another night of work as they had done countless times before.  If there was to be any excitement, it would probable come in the form of a thief looking to steal the sheep, or a wolf coming to devour them.  While these actions might have caused a lot of commotion, they were certainly not unexpected.  They were within the realm of possibility.

But on this particular night, something outside of that realm happened.  Angels came to announce some astonishing news to the shepherds.  The Infant Messiah had been born.  The reaction of the shepherds to this news was to go and see this event that had taken place.  They went to encounter the Christ Child who was to be found in a manger.

This opportunity to encounter Jesus still exists for us today.  We have also received the news that Christ Jesus is among us.  He is present is His Holy Word, “Whoever listens to you, listens to Me.” (Luke 10:16)  He is present in the Holy Eucharist, “This is My Body, which is given for you… This cup is the new covenant in My Blood, which will be shed for you.” (Luke 22:19b, 20b)  He is present when the Christian community gathers together, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)  We know also that we encounter Jesus when we pray or meditate, when we speak to God and listen to Him in prayer.

But the knowledge of these facts is not enough, just as the message of the angels to the shepherds was not enough.  They had to “go and see.”  We too must go and see.  We are called to encounter the living Christ within our Holy Church and within our parish communities.  We are called to gather together as the shepherds did at the crèche.  We are called to gather at the table of the Lord, as the Apostles did when Jesus celebrated the Last Supper.  We are called to spend a moment with Jesus, knowing that He came to earth to unite Himself with us fully, knowing that He took on the flesh and blood of humanity, and then gives us this flesh and blood, united to His divinity, so that we can become more closely united to Him.

This truly is the message of the Nativity, the message of the Christmas season.  Jesus comes to us to draw us all closer to Him.  We hear it in the joyful songs that we sing at Christmas, at Church or in our homes.  We feel it in the darkened Church as we await the beginning of Holy Mass on Christmas Eve.  We see it kneeling at the manger in church or in our homes, knowing that this event of the Incarnation of the Son of God happened for me and for every human that has ever lived.

And then with this knowledge we are drawn closer to the life of Christ.  We experience the love of the Heavenly Father in sending Jesus to earth to be our Savior.  We experience the human love of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she brings this Child into the world.  We know the power of the message shared by the shepherds as they go back to the fields glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.

From our vantage point of the year 2017 we also know that this is only the beginning.  We will come to know Jesus ever more fully in His teachings as He shows us the way of God in the world.  We also will know His power and authority within the miracles that He performs.  Finally we will come to know His total self-sacrifice in the giving of His life upon the Cross and also His victory when on the third day He will rise from the grave.  We also participate in all of this each and every time we come to Church and receive the Lord Jesus in His Word and in the Holy Eucharist.

But it all begins on this night of the Nativity.  It begins with a small infant child, the Little Lord Jesus asking us to open our hearts to experience the love of God which He brings.  Let us each go to the manger, go to your parish Church, to encounter the newborn Christ Child.  Let Jesus into your life, so that God’s love, shown in this Nativity, will shine forth in every word and action you share.

I extend to each and every one of you my wishes for a truly joyous and holy season of the Lord’s Nativity and I pray that in the coming year of 2018 we will come to more fully experience the Lord Jesus Christ and will share His love and His life with each other.  A truly Blessed and Merry Christmas to my brother Bishops, the Very Rev. and Rev. Fathers, the
Deacons and all of the faithful of our Holy Church.

 

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