“A child is born for us, a son is given to us” (Is 9:5).
The whole atmosphere of this marvellous night is encompassed in tonight’s Gospel- we witness a scene entirely suffused with joy and light, the divine joy of the angels and the wondrous joy of the shepherds as they hasten to Bethlehem to find the new-born child. Joy is a truly defining mark of the Christian; we rejoice because in the birth of Jesus, the King of Kings and the Prince of Peace has come into our midst, our redeemer and Saviour is with us !
What Isaiah prophesied is now proclaimed to shepherds as a reality: “To you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11). The Lord is here. From this moment, God is no longer some distant figure glimpsed distantly, but truly “God with us!” “Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” It is that same message announced to the Shepherds on that first Christmas night and which changes our world and lives forever. Like the shepherds we too must respond without delay! Reflecting upon the important message the shepherds point to in tonight’s Gospel, Pope Benedict notes that like them, we too must be awake and vigilant watching that we too may hear and see the Lord. The first thing we are told about the shepherds is that they were on the watch -they could hear the message precisely because they were awake. We must be awake, so that we can hear the message. Beautifully, the Pope reminds us gently of the truly joyous life of closeness and fidelity to Christ we are called to, and reminded of at Christmas:
For most people, the things of God are not given priority, they do not impose themselves on us directly And so the great majority of us tend to postpone them. First we do what seems urgent here and now. In the list of priorities God is often more or less at the end. We can always deal with that later, we tend to think. The Gospel tells us: God is the highest priority. If anything in our life deserves haste without delay, then, it is God’s work alone. The Rule of Saint Benedict contains this teaching: “Place nothing at all before the work of God.” Everything else comes later. In its essence, though, this saying applies to everyone. God is important, by far the most important thing in our lives. The shepherds teach us this priority. From them we should learn not to be crushed by all the pressing matters in our daily lives. From them we should learn the inner freedom to put other tasks in second place however important they may be so as to make our way towards God… In the Liturgy of the holy night, God comes to us as man, so that we might become truly human. Let us listen once again to Origen: “Indeed, what use would it be to you that Christ once came in the flesh if he did not enter your soul? Let us pray that he may come to us each day, that we may be able to say: I live, yet it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me (Gal 2:20)” (in Lk 22:3).
Yes indeed, that is what we should pray for on this Holy Night. Lord Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, come to us! Enter within me, within my soul. Transform me. Renew me. Change me, change us all from stone and wood into living people, in whom your love is made present and the world is transformed. Amen
-Pope Benedict XVI
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”