25 December - The Feast of the Nativity
1. The world ignores the birth of Jesus. There is no room for Him in the inns of Bethlehem, and no room for Mary and Joseph, two poverty-stricken travellers, who are obliged as a result to take refuge in a miserable hovel. In the world it is always so, for men judge one another by external appearances and by financial standards.
How do we behave towards Jesus Christ? How do we behave towards the needy and the afflicted in whom we should discern the Person of Christ Himself?
If we are prepared to open our hearts to Jesus and to welcome Him as our King and absolute Master, we shall be so transformed that we shall live His life and act in unison with Him. In short, we shall become saints. But if we are lacking in generosity and are reluctant to welcome Jesus unreservedly into our hearts, we shall never be more than half-Christian, tepid and ungrateful. We should even be prepared to welcome the poor as the representatives of Christ. “As long as you did it for one of these, the least of my brethren,” He has assured us, “you did it for me” (Mt. 25:40).
Before the cave at Bethlehem, then, we should learn two great lessons. We should learn to love Jesus intensely as our highest and only good, and we should learn to love in an effective and practical way those who are poverty-stricken or suffering, in whom we should be able to see Jesus Christ Himself.
2. While the earth, plunged in darkness, ignores the birth of Jesus, the sky brightens above the lowly barn in which the Infant is lying. The voices of Angels are heard singing a sweet refrain which will echo through the centuries. “Glory to God in the highest,” they chant, “and on earth peace among men of good will” (Lk. 2:14).
The world rejects and despises Jesus; one day, moreover, He will be condemned as a criminal and crucified. What happens to Jesus is what always happens to truth and justice, which are often spurned by men, but are always victorious in the end. For a time truth and justice may seem to have been defeated once and for all, but then they triumph in an extraordinary manner. The example of Christ is enough to convince us of this.
Let us never reject Jesus Christ, however. Let us refuse to trample on His holy law or to crucify Him again by our sins. Let us listen to the chorus of Angels singing. Let us make our lives a hymn of praise to Almighty God, and then we shall have that peace of heart which is reserved for men of good will.
3. The first people to pay homage to Jesus Christ are not men of exalted rank, but humble shepherds. They come to offer their poor gifts, but above all else they offer Him their simple and innocent hearts.
We also should approach the manger with humility and simplicity. Foremost among the gifts which we offer should be the renunciation of sin, a firm resolution to resist our lower inclinations, and a great love for Him Who has loved us so much. There are no more pleasing gifts which we could offer Jesus Christ on His Birthday.