We ponder the First Christmas.
We use our pandemic experience to relate to the circumstances long ago on the Way to Bethlehem for Joseph and Mary and Child. Our illustration shows them on the road as going for a displaced, uncomfortable situation for the Birth of The Christ. Joseph and Mary and Child are forced by a census to be on the road right prior to Christmas’ arrival. Bethlehem, Joseph’s ancestral town, was not in any shape to properly receive him. So he and family were relegated to a cave spot. It didn’t seem right, but it was what he had to work with—2000 years ago—and Christ the Babe came out into the world of his and Mary’s humble setting. He was likely laid down in a cradle-feeding trough that our many manger scenes depict. Joseph must have felt: this is not how I would have liked this to be! And last year’s Christmas (and partly of this 2021 one) did feel odd in its circumstances, too, yet here comes Christmas in such a setting. ‘An odd case! Does it have to be so strange? This 2021 one we’re still cautious. Not so of celebrating Jesus in our hearts, but of gathering to do it in a health-risk situation.
Yet how odd as well that the Savior was born in the manger and placed on that trough; it was the same Lord Who would later declare Himself to be the Bread of Life, in that anyone who would feed on Him would live forever! Wow. We now know Him in the Eucharist this way in 2021. How interesting it is that of two millennia ago HE was born in this little town Bethlehem that meant “house of bread.” (Beth-house/lehem: bread). Also fascinating was that it was the arranged place for Messiah’s coming, as told by the prophet Micah centuries beforehand to be—it was to this little setting.
We had a past Christmas when we could not easily receive The Lord as Eucharist, as our Sign of being Catholic and remaining with Him in faith and via a Christ’ Mass of The Nativity. It was our odd setting, to not be where we usually encounter the Lord in Holy Communion on this Blessed Dec.25th Day (vigil). It certainly was weird for me, and of still not seeing some people still even in this lead-up to the 2021 Christmas, Mass-goers did become non-goers in person in 2020; for safety reasons and protections on the unknown with the Covid thing. In 2021, we still don’t have a grasp at Christmas of what we truly should or shouldn’t do. But does not Christ’ Coming deserve a good gathering at Mass, by those not in high risk health categories?
I just pray: “Lord, the circumstances of Christmas don’t always work out so good down here. Sometimes it’s a messed-up situation, and we can learn from Saints Joseph and Mary to keep trusting in Thy Providence.
Christmas is fast approaching, and its deep meaning stays with us. The Word became flesh in Jesus Christ. He is the Savior Who even found a Way for us, then, to be saved in Him, even forgiven by Him and heart-entered by Him, and fed Sacramentally of Him, so brought together towards an experience for eternal unity and love. There is a Christmas of Glory that comes. Its Day draws nearer.
The Word was made flesh. It truly is The Miracle of history, all in HIS STORY of loving us, that the immortal Creator of heaven, earth, and humankind blessed Mary and by Spirit graced her to give birth to Jesus. God as come among us as man. At last, here was The Word made flesh. The most powerful Being in the universe was wrapped in a simple blanket and sleeping in a feeding trough for animals. Let us be amazed at that.
Fr. J. Barry