Archive | May, 2006

The Birth of Jesus- Luke 2:1-32

17 May

It may appear slightly odd that I’m focusing on the birth of Jesus in this post. After all, Christmas seems long past. Even Easter was almost five weeks ago. So why write about the birth of our Lord now, except to continue my reflection on the Gospel of Luke that stalled at the end of the first chapter when my workload began to increase?We proclaim in the Apostles’ Creed:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
Creator of heaven and earth;
and in Jesus Christ, His Only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended to the dead;
On the third day He rose again.

The birth of Our Lord is linked therefore to His ministry, death, and resurrection, by which is promised salvation to those who seek unity in Christ’s love. The birth, earthly life, death, and resurrection of Jesus are also linked to the very creation of the world:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without him not one thing came into being.” (John 1:1-3)

We celebrate the creation of the world especially at the Easter Vigil. In the first of seven readings, the story of God’s wondrous creation from the Book of Genesis is told. At the same Easter Vigil, we re-commit ourselves to our mission of dying to sin and rising with Christ by restating our Baptismal vows. Easter follows Lent, forty days of a more conscious attempt at conversion in anticipation of the commemoration of Christ’s Passion. At Christmas, we celebrate the Nativity after the four week preparation period of Advent.

In reality, we should always be in a state of preparation and conversion for the Lord’s second coming, at any point during the liturgical year. Thus, in our lives, events of Christ’s life are recalled and lived in unison.

It is therefore appropriate to recall Christ’s birth at any time. Luke begins Chapter 2 of his Gospel by writing about the historical timeline surrounding the Nativity. Caesar Augustus, the Roman leader, had decreed that “all the world should be registered”. (Luke 2:1) Indeed, the Romans seemed in command of most of the world at the time. The occupying power was also much disliked, particularly in Israel. There, people looked for political deliverance from the Romans. A Messiah was needed.

In the midst of Roman control, Joseph humbly went to Bethlehem to register. He followed the decree from Augustus, and registered “in the city of David”, from whom Joseph was descended. (cf. Luke 2:4) There, Mary gave birth to Jesus, wrapping him in fittingly humble bands of cloth and laying him in a manger. This child was the long-awaited Messiah, though not the kind many envisioned.

Nonetheless, angels praised God:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours” (Luke 2:14)

An angel went with good news to the shepherds, who were obscure members of the society of their time. Few paid attention to the shepherds. But God invited them to the Nativity scene first: “Do not be afraid…I am bringing you great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord”. (Luke 2:10-11). The largely forgotten shepherds were the first to the scene of the birth of the Shepherd of shepherds. This Shepherd calls each of His sheep by name, and those who know the Lord answer His call. (cf. John 10:1-21)

The answer to the Shepherd’s call is often to echo the angels’ praise to God, going forth shepherding God’s people and spreading the good news in awe of God’s works. (cf. Luke 2:20) Others are called to be like Mary, the model of mothers, who treasures and ponders the events involving her child in her heart.

Our recollection of Mary’s response to the will of God is important, especially since today is only three days after Mother’s Day. I spent much of the last weekend visiting with my family. My mom’s parents were also visiting for the weekend, before heading out to visit my great aunt, a nun for 63 years who is sick with cancer. One must admire the wisdom of mothers and grandmothers… Just before driving home on Sunday evening, I spoke with Dad’s mom by phone. Dad had called to wish Grandma a Happy Mother’s Day. As I was beginning to wish Grandma the same, she reminded me that she had sent a card to me for my 25th birthday a week ago. She apologized for her lateness (though she didn’t need to), saying that she celebrates my birthday every day. I was touched, and I could only say the same about her…I celebrate her life and motherhood and contribution to my life and to the lives of others every day. Likewise, we celebrate the Lord’s birth every day, and we recognize those who bear the Lord in their hearts every day.

Grandma is truly a selfless person, as is my maternal grandmother and my own mother. Motherhood entails intrinsic selflessness. God chose Mary, an especially selfless mother, to bear and to rear Jesus, and to bear witness to His glory in death and in resurrection. Mary raised her child in the Jewish tradition. The child was named Jesus- the name given by the angel while the Lord was in Mary’s womb. (cf. Luke 2:21)

This child would then be presented in the Temple. Later, Jesus would be presented in His ministry, and then on a cross. Then, His mission complete, He would be presented as the resurrected Christ. God helps us daily now, presenting Himself to us as the Holy Spirit. If we live in the Spirit, the Spirit will live in us. We will then be able to hold Christ as Simeon did, and praise God when we see His salvation:

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Thank you God, for sending your only Son to redeem us. Help us to live by your will and to be Easter people. Thank you for mothers who give of themselves to guide us along the path to salvation. Amen.