Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2018 New Year!
Now We Matter
“For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.”
It’s roughly 100 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem. According to Google Maps, it would take about 34 hours to travel the distance on foot, not counting stops for rest — nor does it consider marauding bandits, flash floods, washed away roads, and a full-term pregnancy.
But this is the journey that St. Joseph, the foster father of the Son of God, and the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, this is the journey they make.
The journey is not their choice. Caesar Augustus has spoken, and, like it or not, impending birth notwithstanding, they make the exhausting 100-mile trek to fill out some government forms. St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary are, like poor and defenseless people of every place and time, at the whim of whatever Caesar or compassion-less bureaucracy directs.
The irony is that while St. Joseph, the Virgin Mary and their unborn child are headed to Bethlehem to be counted, the fact is they really don’t count — not to Rome anyway. They are faceless nobodies. They are numbers in the files of an uncaring empire.
But their hope is not in the emperor Caesar Augustus, but their hope is in God.
They are embraced not in the imposed “peace” of Rome (which is nothing more than an absence of conflict), but they are embraced in the true peace of the God of mercy.
To God, they count.
Tonight, little Bethlehem is the center of light for mankind.
God has become one of us, and because He has become one of us, we realize the dignity of our own humanity.
We, who travel between the Nazareths and Bethlehems of our lives, we count. We, who are often overwhelmed by feelings of nothingness, we matter. We, who find ourselves so beaten down that we don’t want to get up again, we have reason to hope.
Because God is with us.
Today, the Church celebrates the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Caesar Augustus was Roman emperor at this time, reigning from the year 30 B.C. to the year 14 A.D. He is known to have commissioned various censuses, one of which could well be that referred to by St. Luke the evangelist in today’s Gospel. Since Rome normally respected local usages, censuses were carried out in line with Jewish custom whereby every householder went to his place of origin to be listed in the census.
And so here the Messiah is born, the Son of God and our Savior. “(who)… made Himself a child to enable us to become mature; He was wrapped in swaddling clothes to free us from the bonds of death; He came down on earth to enable us to rise up to heaven; He had no place in the inn so that we might have many mansions in heaven; He, being rich, became poor for our sake. The tears of this crying child purify us, because they wash away our sins.”
The new-born Child does not yet speak, yet He is the eternal Word of the Father. Even from the manger in Bethlehem He teaches us. The main lesson He gives us concerns humility “God humiliated Himself by becoming a man so as to allow us to get near Him; so that we could give our love in exchange for His; so that our freedom might bow, not only at the sight of His power, but also before the wonder of His humility.”
“This humble Child who is God and who created heaven and earth and here He is, lying exposed and vulnerable in a manger, ‘because there was no room at the inn’ – there was nowhere else for the Lord of all creation to be born.”
Our hearts should provide Jesus with a place where He can be born spiritually; that is, we should be born to a new life, becoming a new creature, keeping that holiness and purity of soul which we were given in Baptism and which is like being born again.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this “silent, holy” night, a savior is born in our midst. In Christ, we count, we matter, we belong, and moreover we realize, in Him, the holiness within us. May His light illuminate every morning of our lives; may his presence bring hope and joy to our messy, grimy stables; may we behold His face in the faces of our spouses and children and friends (and enemies). May we make room for Him in our welcoming of every visitor to our own Bethlehem stables — where all of us count, where all of us matters, where all of us are equal and lovable in the eyes and heart of our God.
Mary, Mother of Our Savior, pray for us!