|A Christmas Meditation|
|Reprinted from The Remnant, Christmas, 1967|
Let us come away from the city and the world: let us forget it for a while, and go back in memory a thousand years and more, back to Palestine, to little Bethlehem, the town of prophecy. We want to spend Christmas in a holy manner; we want to find our happiness in higher things than wealth can buy. So we shut our eyes to the shops, to the theaters, to the family gatherings even, and open them in Juda’s princely town.
It is midnight and there is a hush, and a holy calm. On the hilltops watchful shepherds lie in solemn silence guarding their sheep; in the crowded city the tired people sleep at last. We pass through the deserted streets, pass the inn that could find no shelter for the Virgin Mother; go through the eastern gate and look out for the shepherds’ cave. There is vigil there. Joseph and Mary were at prayer when, the Word made flesh, dwelt amongst us.
Heaven in earth! Do you not understand: Now at last the yearning of the Creator is satisfied. He longed to lift men to Himself, to lift earth to Heaven. And men would not be lifted up. Rather they sank lower and lower. But the infinite love did not tire, nor grow cold. It watched and waited, and, at last, stooped down and touched the earth with Heaven; God became man, became a little Child. Justice and mercy kissed and the result was peace to men; blessed, eternal peace between Heaven and earth. Now men would be lifted up, now they would join their hands and, raising their eyes to Heaven, say: “Our Father, who art in Heaven”. “No man hath seen the Father but the Son,” and He, the little new-born Child, was to explain Him to men. He was to explain Him by the wining ways of His Babyhood, by the graces of His Boyhood, by the breaking heart of His Manhood. He was to captivate human souls. With His human love He was to win them, and, holding them fast, show them that loving Him they were loving God. So Christmas Day became the earthly birthday of Divine Love.
What then does this Birth mean, this opening flower of infinite, eternal love? To us men it means a copious redemption, an heirloom of graces; the beginning of unending companionship, a divine brotherhood, a pledge of eternal life. To Mary it means great joy, sorrow unsurpassed; to St. Joseph a mystic fatherhood, the highest trust upon earth. To Jesus, the Great Little One, it meant overflowing love, and what love always brings – sorrow, suffering, sacrifice.
Let us come near to this dear little One. Let us kiss His tender hands and feet before they are wrapped in the swaddling bands. Let us try to meet the look of love in His eyes with an answering look of love. He holds nothing back from us, He is all ours. Are we prepared to be as sweeping in our sacrifices? Today on His birthday we can surely refuse Him nothing. If the silent lips ask, can re refuse? If the Baby heart is set upon something that we can give, shall it not have it? He comes in so winning a form, fearing no repulse. Is our heart proof against such confidence?
The midnight hours pass; the light of early day creeps into the dark cave; streaks of sun-rays find their way upon the dark wall and gild Mary’s hair as she stoops over the little stone manger. Presently a tramping of feet is heard without, then there comes a sudden stop, then a low whispering, and then the sun’s gleams cease for an instant and dark figures penetrate the cave. They are the shepherds from the neighboring hills and they come, angel-bidden, to see “the word that has come to pass, that the Lord had shown them.” With wondering awe they draw near to Mary’s side, and kneeling by her, adore their Savior, Christ the Lord.
What a beautiful sight the angels saw that Christmas morning! All that was fairest upon earth was there. The little King holding his court, with the Queen-Mother by His side; Joseph, foster-father and guardian, silent in his adoration; the courtiers, simple, humble souls so ready to obey when the message came from above. In the world’s eyes these were common people of the peasant class surrounding an ill-built manger where a new-born Baby lay, nursed by a young Mother. But we will not think of the world today. We will keep our minds fixed on the mystery wrought.