“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes
and laid him in a manger”
Chrysostom said about Christ’s birth, that Christ could have come forth moving the
Heavens and making the Earth shake, and shooting forth His thunderbolts – but his
goal was to trample human pride from the very beginning of his birth, choosing
to be born poor, settling for a manger where there could have been a cradle.
And in being
placed in the manger, lots of early saints saw this as a reference to Christ’s
desire to nourish us with his flesh and blood, we who so often refuse to
capitalize on the gift of our intellect, and instead prefer lawlessness which
makes us into little better than the animals in Nativity scenes, Christ comes
forth not with thunderbolts but as food for us that slowly, over time, turns us
more and more into Himself, as Saint Augustine famously notes in his conversion
story. The Eucharist, the Body and Blood
of Jesus, over time make us more and more into Jesus, while still maintaining
our own identity.
And we know
from our human experience, the birth of a child changes everything. I am the firstborn in my family, and My Mom
tells the story about how my Dad, when I was born, ran out and got new tires on
the car and how he had forgotten to change his contact lenses and so his eyes
were totally red but he didn’t even realize it!
How often we
see children being born and totally changing the course of a family! I have seen it in my brothers’ and sisters’
lives and in my friends’ lives, and I have seen it in my life as well. I have shared before, but on my drive out to Brazil,
when I was first made a pastor, I almost threw up from nervousness. There is no course in the seminary you can
take to prepare you to become a Father of souls. Annunciation was my first born child, and it
totally rocked my world in a good way!
Church says I am a father to all my parishioners, and indeed to all those
living in my parish boundaries. People have
said, “Father, I hope you get to spend some time with your family over the
holidays.” I know what they mean, but I
do get to spend time with my family – I am doing that right now at this Mass!” You all are my family and you call me “Father”…it
is not a metaphor!
So if the
birth of a child can change the course of an entire family, how much more the
birth of God as a human person, how much more does that change the course of
our entire human family!
prepare to celebrate the Eucharistic prayer where my words will change bread
and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, who once was resting in a manger, we
will sing, along with the Angels in Heaven “Holy Holy Holy, Lord God of Hosts! Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest!”