December 18, 2017
In the readings for Christmas Mass at Dawn, we are told that the shepherds, after a revelation from the angels, decide to see “this thing that has taken place.” So, they set out in haste and find Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. The shepherds begin to make known what they have seen and everyone who heard their message is amazed. The passage concludes with the verse that the shepherds continued glorifying and praising God because they understood what had been told them about this child. What was it that they came to understand? I would suggest three things.
First, it is easier to find Christ when I am humble than when I am exalted, when I am poor than when I am rich, and when I am lost than when I am found. When I am filled with myself I have little room for God.
Secondly, that the fortunes of the shepherds had changed (as outcasts) because in this vulnerable child they saw all who were hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, and sick. Our God has come to us and identifies most closely with the poor and the vulnerable. Indeed, our treatment of these little ones is the measure of our judgment: “When did I see you hungry? When did I see you thirsty? When did I see you naked and sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25)?”
Thirdly, God comes to us in our most vulnerable state, as a baby. This means that God has revealed Godself as the one who never compels or overwhelms us, but resolutely and graciously invites us to fall in love with God and God’s ways: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
This is what the shepherds understood about what had been told to them. In the celebration of the day of Christ’s birth, in liturgy and parish, in family and home, in friends and neighborhoods, in colleagues and work, what have you understood about what has been revealed to you this day?