Christmas is such a beautiful feast that we might be tempted to be rather passive in its celebration. Sometimes the beauty of Christmas simply beckons us to listen to the beautiful music and to sit and contemplate the scene of the little Babe of Bethlehem lying in a manger. The Gospel of St. Luke suggests that there might be a more appropriate response to the wonders of that stable in Bethlehem when he wrote the following:
“When the shepherds saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:17-18).
This line from the Gospel becomes all the more poignant when we realize who wrote it. St. Luke had not been privileged to know Jesus personally. Unlike Saints Matthew, Mark and John, St. Luke was a Gentile who had become a Christian through the preaching of the apostles. He tells us plainly in the opening verses of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles that he is writing down what he has heard. When he tells us that the shepherds were the first to hear the message of the angels on that first Christmas night, he also makes a point to tell us that they were not content to simply sit and ruminate about the news. They told others what they had heard and seen. He also relates that those who heard the shepherds were amazed at what they were told, amazed that such important news would be entrusted to shepherds who were by all accounts the outcasts of society.
Each year we hear the message of the Gospel. God has chosen to live among us as one like us. God has taken on flesh and become human. The mystery of the Incarnation is at once startling and comforting. We are startled to hear that God would embrace our humble nature yet comforted by the great love that must have motivated God’s choice.
However, let us remember that the Incarnation is not a static reality that took place thousands of years ago. Rather it is an ongoing event which depends upon those who have heard the news to make the message known to others. Just as the shepherds did on that first Christmas night so many years ago and just as St. Luke did after he had heard the good news of Jesus, we are responsible for announcing the Good News to others. Faith in Jesus comes about through hearing the Gospel. This is a point that St. Luke makes over and over again in his Gospel.
As we celebrate this great feast, let us not fail to tell the world through our words and the examples of our lives that God has chosen to live among us as one like us, though free of sin. The message is just as startling and just as comforting today as it was when it was first proclaimed in Bethlehem of Judea!
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator