December 31, 2015

Nativity: December 31, 2015


"[They] found Mary and Joseph, and the infant 
lying in the manger" (Luke 2:16)

As the shepherds reverently entered the cave they “found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:16). “As a sign, the angel had told the shepherds that they would find a child wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. This is an identifying sign—a description of what they would see. … for the shepherds, who had seen God’s glory shining in their fields, this is sign enough. They see inwardly. They see that the angel’s words are true. So the shepherds return home with joy. They glorify God and praise him for what they have heard and seen (cf. Luke 2: 20).” [13] (emphasis added) This was what they had been searching for their entire lives. Finally, they found Him. Yet, ironically, it was they who were found first. It was God who found them. It was God who found them in their night watch. It was God who led them to the nativity. With all their desires, with all their searching, God found them.

How poetic that shepherds found Jesus with such great joy. Years later, not many miles from Bethlehem, Jesus Himself would enliven the imaginations of those most in need. Luke 15 tells us: “The tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to him … So to them he addressed this parable. ‘What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’” (Luke 15:1; 2-6) And, who could forget the story of the Prodigal Son. The searching son returning to his father expects the worst saying, “’Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.” (Luke 15:21-24)

The Catechism states this further: “God calls man first. Man may forget his Creator or hide far from his face; he may run after idols or accuse the deity of having abandoned him; yet the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response” [14] God wants to find us. God wants to be found. We long to find God. We long to be found. The joy of Christmas is deeper than holiday sentimentality or the romantic filter of exchanging presents. The joy of Christmas is that we have found what we are searching for. The joy of Christmas is that deep within us, within the depths of our hearts that most need peace, we realize that we have been found. There, like lost sheep, God pursues us. He longs for us. He finds us.

Merry Christmas. When you, like the shepherds, find the Christ child you realize that you have been found. God wants you. God wants you to enter the cave, to enter the nativity. You inch toward the cave … you reverently poke your head to catch a glimpse within. As you peek in you are silenced as you see Joseph tenderly embracing Mary as Mary cradles the swaddled child. Captured in silence, Mary’s eyes lock with yours and she invites you to enter the cave. As you enter, she asks you, “Would you like to hold Him?” You have found Him. He has found you. Mary leans forward … you open your arms … and …

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 prayed Psalm 131. Begin by slowly reading Psalm 131. Read it a few times. Imagine Mary and Joseph singing this Psalm as they hold each other and hold Jesus. Now, prayerfully imagine the scene in Luke 2:16b. Be in the scene. . 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. 

Today's prayer

"Father, I thank you for the gift of Christ. I ask for the grace today to let you find me so that I may experience your presence in every aspect of my life."

[13] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pg. 79
[14] Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2567

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