Something quite extraordinary has happened, yet quite familiar. Familiar because most of us have listened to the story of the birth of Christ for as many years as we have been alive. The birth of Jesus is part of grand scheme, a time when God humbled himself to be one of us, uniting humanity with the divine in a bond of eternal love.
The initiative of love was first announced from the heavens; to the beggar and the king, the child and the old woman, the poor and the rich. The angels announced to the shepherds that it should be known to all people, in the east and the west, the north and the south; it shall ring forth and make joyful through all ages; it shall never cease, not even when the world shall keep its vigil, and the book of humanity will be closed, and then it will ring on in eternity: A Savior has been born to you, who is Christ the Lord.
Simply, we are players in this great and true story. It is a story that started in a lowly stable almost two thousand years ago, with very few witnesses; a lowly but holy Virgin; a modest carpenter; anonymous shepherds and all of God’s created nature awakened from their slumber by the Light dawning in a darkened world. It is a story that also awakened us from our drowsiness, because it is our story too.
The witnesses today are lowly and holy people; modest workers; men; women; children and of course all of those anonymous persons who haven’t anything to call their own. It is a story that lures us closer, a story that we need to be a part of no matter how inconvenient, no matter how arduous. And it is our story only because the power of the Most High has over-shadowed us as well.
It all begins if you recall, in an out of the way place, in a lean-to fit only for the beasts of the fields. A couple thrown together by God’s providence and their selfless acceptance of God’s grace. The poverty of these two— staggering to our sensibilities, became the fruitful and abundant source of God’s grace that has forever changed all creation. We too are allured to this mystery, not by anything we can bring, nor gifts we bear or receive, but by the simple fact that we too are without anything, really, all is a gift from God. We are now players in this eternal drama stripped of everything, and it is here in this poorness that we hear the voice of the angels– “tidings of great joy”.
As characters in this eternal story, we are hearkened back to our own homes, just as Joseph was with Mary. We are called back to account for ourselves, to make our presence known. And just as Joseph and Mary ventured out with nothing, and much to the splendor of the world, God was born to them; we return home in poverty to welcome the baby Jesus into our lives. The poverty that God wishes to be born into has nothing to do with material things, that will ultimately lose their luster only after a short time. No, God wishes to be with us in the poverty of our homes and hearts where there need not be any pretense to who we are, no façade, no hiding, but the lovable persons we really are. The poverty once seen as despicable is now brought to a level of sanctity. And there is only one place where we can experience that, by going back to our place of security, our places of nurturing– our homes.
During the Christmas season we begin our journey back to those whom we love, emptied of all pride and arrogance and in that glorious poverty of heart we have accepted by the providence of God just as Mary and Joseph did. We are brought into this wonderful story as primary participants in the birth of the Savior. This is why Christmas is so special, heaven has been lowered so that we may rise and touch the eternal Word made flesh. Emmanuel has been born to us, and by this great gift, we have been born to eternal life.