Humble and Simple
Realizations from the first Christmas
We’ve grown familiar with a glittery, sparkly Christmas season filled with lights, color, festivity, and cheer. It’s not wrong at all, considering that it is indeed a season of joy.
Yet if we look back to that first Christmas night, we have to realize that it is quite the opposite of what it is today.
The journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Judea alone is already a long and arduous one, travelling 90 miles on an uphill and downhill terrain, followed by harsh weather, and presence of predatory animals, both literal and figurative. Add to that are having to bring your own provisions, and, finally, Mary travelling that long stretch with a baby on the way, nine months well into the pregnancy, and all odds are definitely not in their favor.
Yet they make it to Bethlehem, which probably took them about a week to get there. Then comes the next set of challenges: a place to stay, and Mary ready to give birth. Unfortunately, the couple are met with an overcrowded Bethlehem, where inns are full, and places of relatives, if any, are already packed and unable to entertain any further. In that state of needing to deliver the child, plus a packed Bethlehem with no place to stay, it almost seems like a perfect recipe for disaster. Yet they end up in a lowly cave, where donkeys that were used by the travelers and a few sheep are staying. It’s definitely not a clean place. After all, a place for animals is never considered sanitary for giving birth. Since the donkeys and some sheep stay there, it is also a place for feeding them.
But it is the only place there is, and Mary and Joseph will have to make do with it, giving birth to the Messiah in such a lowly place. The paintings and images that depict this scene does not give justice to the reality of the circumstances of how Christ was born, yet there is a resounding truth to it: He came into this world in a very simple and humble way. In fact, He came into the world in a manner that serves as a precursor to what He will accomplish, as eternal food for man through the Eucharist. Born in a manger, probably in the form of a cave, a place to feed animals, hence the words mangiare in Italian, manducare in Latin, which means to eat.
How providential it is. God became man in such simple and humble means, born to save, born to be the Bread of Life, food for eternal life.
Was it really silent that night of our Lord’s birth? Perhaps, for despite the throngs of people that have flocked to Bethlehem for the census, it was already deep into the night when Mary had to finally deliver the child. There probably wasn’t even enough light to make sure that she is able to properly deliver the child as they stay in the manger.
If that’s not enough, the Gospel readings even give us an idea of who are first informed of what has taken place in that quiet evening. Neither the royalties, nor the wise and the learned, nor those in the upper echelons of society at that time first received the news.
No, it was the shepherds who were keeping watch of their flock that night. Simple people who have nothing expensive or grand to offer to our Lord that night but their mere presence, bowing down in homage to such a sweet lad, cuddled by his mother and watched over by his father in that dirty place.
And so while we see all the Christmas trappings around us, all the lights, sparkles, color, and glitter; all the merriment and cheer that rings in the holiday season, we also ought to look into ourselves, and see if we have prepared room in ourselves to welcome the Lord. Our own hearts and souls, perhaps soiled and dirtied like the manger because of our sins and failings, can still be room to welcome the Christ child into our lives, if only we are willing to welcome Him. There may have been no room apart from the manger during that first Christmas, but our hearts and souls can become a daily manger for the Christ child, and we can choose to welcome Him daily with love.
A blessed Christmas to one and all.