December 25, 2015

Nativity: December 25, 2015


“She gave birth to her firstborn son” (Luke 2:7)

It is quiet; it is still. As if the most important thing in the history of the world is about to unfold, all of creation of captured in utter stillness. In the quiet caves outside Bethlehem, Mary and Joseph are mere seconds away from the birth of the Savior. With the “manger’s” animals attentive in intrigue, the time comes. Mary’s labor intensifies. Joseph clutches her hand. Heaven lunges forward. With Mary’s soul singing her refrain of praise she gasps for one last breath. Your eyes widen; your heart quickens. The baby is seconds away …. and … finally … He is here … the long-awaited Messiah is born!

Imagine the utter silence enveloping Jesus’ birth. Joseph gently receives the newborn infant from Mary’s womb and instinctively rests Jesus on Mary’s chest. As Mary embraces this tiny child she is captured with a gaze that only mothers can describe. Yet, with all her emotion brimming, she is stunned with inexpressible adoration, for Mary is beholding “her firstborn son”. (Luke 2:7)

“What does this mean? The first-born is not necessarily the first in a series. The word ‘first-born’ points not to a continuing number, but rather indicates a theological quality which finds expression in the oldest of Israel’s collections of laws. The instructions for the Passover contain the following passages: ‘The Lord said to Moses: ‘Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel is mine” (Exodus 13:1-2). ‘Every first-born of man among your sons you shall redeem’ (Exodus 13:13). So the reference to the first-born is also an anticipation of the account, soon to follow, of Jesus’ presentation in the Temple. Clearly, this word highlights the particular way in which Jesus belongs to God.” [1] (emphasis added) 

Sure, Mary is gazing at her son. However, Mary is gazing at God. There were 47 billion people born before Christ … and none of them saw God face to face. There were 300 million people alive at the time of Christ … and none of them were chosen for this moment. In this tiny child “we see our God made visible and so are caught up in love of the God we cannot see”. [2] This is not merely a baby, this is God. God is not invisible. God has a face; God has a name. We can see God in our midst. As Mary embraces her son, she is stunned that the almighty God is merely six inches away from her eyes.

Many of us struggle to see God. In the busyness of the Christmas holiday rush it is often difficult to see God. Even in the joy of presents and family dinners and Christmas carols it can be difficult to see God. When life fails to meet our expectations it can be difficult to see God. When life is hard and the road is tough it can be difficult to see God. To you we say: “Merry Christmas” you can now see God. God is not invisible. He is not hidden. Emmanuel, God is with us, reminds us all God wants us to see Him in our life.

Today will be busy; today will be full. In the midst of it all ask Jesus to help you see Him in the midst of these most sacred of days.

For your prayer

The Psalms are the sacred music of a chosen people. The Psalms were written as songs to praise God. Imagine how Mary and Joseph would have sung the Psalms during the most silent of nights outside Bethlehem. Begin by slowly reading Psalm 24:6; Psalm 27:13;Psalm 66:5. Read them a few times. Consider the sweetness of the singing. Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:7. Be in the scene. Be with Mary and Joseph. Be with Joseph as he gently receives the newborn infant from Mary’s womb. Be with Joseph as he instinctively rests Jesus on Mary’s chest. Be with Mary as she embraces this tiny newborn. Now, ask Mary if you too can hold the firstborn son. Ask Mary if you can hold Jesus … and remember … you’re holding God.

Today's prayer

“Father, I desire to experience joy in a way I have never experienced before. I give you permission to give me a newfound awe at your birth.”

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, page 70
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 477

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© Fr. Mark Toups, 2012. Expressed written permission required for duplication.