In Churches, homes, and even some civic places throughout the world, we see the beautiful, quaint, and charming manger scenes on display. Most certainly, things weren’t as pretty, neat, and clean at the time of Jesus’ birth. The uncertainties, difficulties, and stresses of it all must have been monumental, yet the Holy Family also shows us peace, perseverance, trust, faith, and hope. The beauty of the manger scene is also one where God is seen in the normal, the every-day places and events of life, among the cattle and sheep, in the city and suburb, in the stable and under the stars. Ordinary people, working people were witnesses, like the inn keeper and shepherds, and so were the exalted, the wealthy, the wise, and the angelic.
In fact, ALL OF CREATION was and is witness to the birth of its Savior, the Son of God, humbled in flesh and born as one of us. All of humanity and all of creation is “good” because the God who is Goodness itself sanctified it, touched it, and speaks it into being. This is why we are able to physically and spiritually see the very presence of God himself in creation, in His creation, in our world, and in each other. At the celebration of Christmas, we rejoice in the birth of him called “Emmanuel,” the name which means “God with us,” for he truly is and always will be.
The real gift of Christmas is Jesus. We cannot receive a gift when our arms are filled with all sorts of needless things, and we cannot receive the gift of our Savior when our hearts and lives are filled with all sorts of unnecessary clutter. So much in our lives block and hinder our ability to receive God and his grace. Let’s empty ourselves. Let’s look upon the simplicity of the nativity scene and reflect on its humility and ordinariness, so that our hearts can be transformed into the manger, the empty feeding trough, where Jesus was laid.
St. Paul reminds us that Jesus came into the world and was born to be the Sacrificial Offering for eternity. No more animal holocausts and offerings on altars to cover sins would suffice, but the Infant Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God, would offer himself once, in an Eternal Sacrifice, his Passion, for the salvation of the world. His Blessed Mother placed her precious child in a feeding trough on that Most Holy Night. It was an act of maternal love, but, according to God’s will, it was a gesture which foretold the greatest act of love in all of salvation history, that of her son Jesus giving himself, both Body and Blood, “real food” and “real drink,” in the Eternal Sacrifice “through which we have been consecrated.” (HEB 10:10)
Being prepared for our Lord Jesus Christ, emptied of sin, attachments, and all that keeps us from God’s grace, we will be emboldened by the Holy Spirit to loudly proclaim for all the world: Rejoice and be glad! Our King has been born. Our Savior has come to set us free. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will. May all praise, honor, and glory be to God, our Heavenly Father, for ever and ever!
Pour forth, we beseech you, O Lord, your grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the Incarnation of Christ your Son was made known by the message of an Angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of his Resurrection; through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.