Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, 2016.
This indeed is a moment of tremendous holiness. For to us a child is born; to us a son is given. And in this birth of a child, on this night when a son given to us, let us not overlook the truth, but celebrate it. Let us not lose focus amid the warm moments of Christmastide—the family feasts, the exchanging of presents, the sugar cookies—but keep our attention firmly on the fundamental reality of Christmas: that God has come to earth and Mary is Mother of God.
God has come to earth on this night. The birth of a child releases us from bondage. And yet the Christ Child is entirely forbearing, gentle, and abounding in mercy. He is anointed with the oil of gladness. Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man. Let us never tire of these words! Let us, with the Saints of the Holy Church, never weary of this message! With us is God. With us is the Divine Word, uttered by the Father of all that is, seen and unseen. And it is through this Divine Word that all things were made, are made, and will be made. And this Divine Word, the utterance of the Father amid the love of the Holy Spirit, lives, and breathes, and cries, and sleeps, wakes again as a Child, wanting nothing else but to be held by His mother, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
What light between Mother Mary and her son Jesus! Can this be anything but something of the Light Inexpressible from which this Child came, and in which He always lives with the Father and the Holy Spirit? Can we imagine the illumination at the manger emanating from Jesus the Christ, shared by Blessed Mary and Blessed Joseph. Saint Luke does not tell us of Mary’s emotions, of her feelings or even words, because what even is there that can be said? This is the mystery of mysteries, the holy of holies, choirs of angels in full ringing joy—the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
Is it any wonder that Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart? This Child, whom the whole universe cannot contain, was cloistered in her womb. In this Child, suckling at her breasts, is the whole of the history of salvation fulfilled. In Jesus is fulfilled the history of Adam and Eve in the Garden, through Abraham and Sarah to David and his posterity. It is from this Child that we are given the gifts of justice and peace. Indeed at his birth, the whole world was at peace. This is a peace that is not the absence of war and strife, but the presence of love—the presence of a love of such fullness, where all the universe feels pregnant, feels ripe.
It is in this peace, and through this peace, that the shepherds, out in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night, were announced to—indeed, another Annunciation!—by the angels surrounded by a great glory of light. It was the Angel Gabriel in his loving words of confrontation and mystery: I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people. We hear of the “big bang” that began the material universe. What bigger bang can there be but this, for it began the manifestation of ultimate truth, of fundamental reality—the Prince of Peace of whose government and peace there will be no end!
So let us with Mary keep all these things, and ponder them in our hearts. Our hearts are like Mary’s when we do so—conceiving Christ. Let us be tonight in Bethlehem. This word, Bethlehem, means “house of bread.” Let us be together in the House of the Living Bread. This indeed is a night of true Eucharist, of giving thanks unending. In the Eucharist we remember the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus—let us remember that the Eucharist begins here, with Mary, his Mother: Mother of the Redeemed. May we, like Mary, welcome Christ by treasuring his words in our hearts and celebrating with deep faith the mysteries of our redemption.
Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desiring to consecrate the world by His most loving presence, was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem of Judah, and was made man. Amen.
Cover image “The Adoration of the Shepherds” by is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original.