Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning – not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last.”― Frederick Buechner, ("The Magnificent Defeat")
Gospel Text: (LK 2:1-14)
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
St Luke tells us that the first to know about the birth of the child were shepherds in a field tending their sheep. What is unusual about this is that shepherds were considered outcasts of society. In the eyes of society they were considered to be of shiftless and dishonest character. In the Old Testament they were classified along with prostitutes, publicans, and tax collectors. They were selected to be the first to hear the Good News that the Messiah was born, the Savior. They received the message and went to witness the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes, with Mary and Joseph.
It is important to note that the Shepherds announced to Mary and Joseph what they were told by the Angels. They also proclaimed the good news to all they met, and were filled with joy. It is not to be missed that the first to preach and proclaim the Good News of the Incarnation were these shepherds, the poor, the despised, the outcasts of society. Everyone is responsible for sharing the Good News, no matter who we are, and what our circumstance may be. And it is also important for us to listen to the Good News, for Salvation is presented to us.
How do we get to Bethlehem?
Like Mary and Joseph, by our routine family responsibilities. Like the shepherds, we need to listen for the messengers of God, who bring the Good News to us. When this happens we are restored to wholeness, which the Incarnation brings. We are rescued from sin and our alienation from God. Through us God is made present to the outcasts. Jesus, who became one with us, saves us from destruction and self isolation. Karl Barth said that "The Incarnation, is God's search for human kind." This search is continued through you and me as we live out the mystery of God taking on human nature. This continues through the Church. This continues the reality that is Christmas.
Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas.