“She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger”
Saint John 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!
The Catholic 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!
As we 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!”