Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord, Christmas: Everything Has Changed!
The young couple returns from the hospital with their infant, their first. The world was changing. Their lives were changing. All because of a baby, their baby. Now, they had each held many babies, their nephews and nieces, their cousin’s babies, their friends’ babies, but holding this baby, their baby, was different. Each of them could say that they never felt such an overwhelming love in their lives. They did not know that they had so much love in them. They put the baby down for the three or four hours they hoped they would get that night, but that did not matter. In fact, they spent considerable time just looking at their child, absorbing the wonder of this perfect little person that was now in the center of their lives.
The wonder of their child. They looked, they gazed. Their eyes filled with tears, tears of happiness, tears of joy.
They knew that everything would change. During the pregnancy, they realized that the events of their daily lives would be on a whole new schedule, the baby’s schedule. They knew that they would no longer enjoy spontaneous outings, like going to the movies at the spur of the moment. They knew that none of that would matter once the baby came. What they did not realize was how much the baby would change each of them. “I cannot be the same,” they say to themselves, “I have to be better, a better person, a better Christian. I need to be better because my baby needs me to be better. Everything has changed now that this baby has come into the world.”
And Mary and Joseph gaze on their child lying in the manger. They are filled with wonder at the beauty of this new creation, this new person. But they are not just filled with wonder. They are also filled with awe. Mary knows that the child came from God, from the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. God has worked His wonders in her. Joseph knows that this is the child of his dream, the child that the angel told him would come. He was not the physical father, but the angel assured him that he would raise the child as his own. In the Gospel of Matthew, he was even given the grace of naming the child. So Mary and Joseph gazed at their child, overwhelmed that this child was the Son of the Most High. They gazed at Him with wonder, with reverence, with veneration, with awe.
Then the shepherds came. They had heard about this child. They came not just to see a baby, but to witness the fulfillment of the angel’s message, “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." This child is to be the Savior. His very name, Jesus, means Savior. The shepherds are the first witnesses outside of the Holy Family to know that the Savior had come to the earth as a baby.
Jesus was born, and everything changed. Mankind was no longer be in the grips of evil. The devil would be defeated through the sacrificial love of the one born in Bethlehem. Pride would be defeated with humility, disobedience with obedience, and hatred with love.
And just as the young mother and young father look at their infant and know that their lives have to change, and just as the shepherds looked at the infant in the manger knowing that somehow through this child the world was changing, so we look at the baby in the manger and agree, “Everything must change. We are Christians. We must walk in the Presence of the Lord.”
With the birth of Jesus, the spiritual has become physical and the physical has joined the spiritual. This is a very hard concept for us to grasp, in fact, it is a mystery, one of the great mysteries of our faith. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The world has rejected him, but “To those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice not by man’s decision but of God.”
We have been called to accept the Eternal Lord into our lives. If we have the courage and the humility to do this, then we ourselves will become children of God.
Everything must change in our lives. We need to bring the spiritual into the physical. We need to be counter cultural, people who value the spiritual over the material. We need to join the Lord in creating a new culture, one where the work of the Kingdom takes precedence over the work of the world. We need to be kind. We need to be loving. We need to be Christian. We need to be Catholic.
Mother Teresa, St. Teresa of Calcutta, summed this up in a beautiful prayer she would say every day:
Dear Jesus, help me to spread your fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with your Spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of your life.
Shine though me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.
We need to join that first Nativity scene, with Mary and Joseph and the shepherds, and later on with the three kings. We need to join them and with wonder and awe proclaim with our lives: Everything has changed.