IN A MANGER
According to Luke’s account, it’s the angel’s message to the shepherds that gives us the key to read, in the light of faith, the mystery that is enfolded in a child born in strange circumstances outside of Bethlehem.
It’s night. An unknown brightness illuminates the darkness that covers Bethlehem. The light doesn’t come down over the place where the child is to be found, but instead surrounds the shepherds who hear the message. The child remains hidden in obscurity, in an unknown place. It’s necessary to make some effort to discover him.
These are the first words we need to hear: «Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people». It’s something really big that’s happening. All of us have reason to rejoice. That child doesn’t belong to Mary and Joseph. He’s been born for all of us. He doesn’t belong to just a few privileged people. He’s for all people.
We Christians mustn’t hoard these celebrations. Jesus belongs to those who follow him with faith and those who have forgotten him, those who trust in God and those who doubt everything. No one is alone with their fears. No one is alone in their loneliness. There’s Someone who’s thinking of us.
That’s what the messenger proclaims: «Today a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord». He’s not the son of the emperor Augustus, ruler of the world, celebrated as savior and bringer of peace, thanks to the power of his armies. The birth of someone powerful isn’t good news in a world where the weak are victims of every kind of abuse.
This child is born in a people subjected to the Empire. He has no Roman citizenship. No one in Rome awaits his birth. But he is the Savior we need. He won’t be in service to any Caesar. He won’t work for any empire. He’s the Son of God who’s become human. He will only seek the reign of his Father and God’s justice. He will live in order to make life more human. In him the unjust world will find God’s salvation.
Where is this child? How can we recognize him? Thus says the messenger: «And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger». The child has been born as an outcast. His parents weren’t able to find a welcoming place. His mother gave birth to him without anyone’s help. She herself did as best she could to wrap him in swaddling clothes and lay him in a manger.
In this manger begins God’s adventure among us. We won’t find God among the powerful, but in the weak. God isn’t in the grand and spectacular, but in the poor and the little one. Let’s go to Bethlehem; let’s return to the roots of our faith. Let’s seek God where God has become incarnate.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf