One of the dangers that we face in hearing from St. Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth is that it can very easily for us today sound like just a cute Christmas story. We have the cute little town of Bethlehem, the cute shepherds that come to see the infant Messiah, and we have Mary gazing upon her cute little baby in a cute manger scene. It’s almost like a fairy tale. But this story is far more than just “cute,” for God is showing us in these details something very profound and meaningful for our lives.
Luke presents us with three themes or images that are worth our careful reflection: Bethlehem, the shepherds, and Mary. If there is anything that ties all these themes/images together for us, I would say that it is humility – the virtue of humility. Christmas is first and foremost the feast of God’s great humility. God steps down to us as a baby in a little unknown town in the ancient Middle East, in a smelly cave with animals, so that we could approach him, and so that he could one day raise us up to where he is in heaven. We must have humility to recognize that we were made by God and for God, and that we have a hunger that only he can satisfy.
The famous Bishop Fulton Sheen once remarked that only two classes of people found the baby Jesus: the shepherds and the wise men – the simple and the learned – those who knew that they knew nothing, and those who knew that they did not know everything. Sheen would go on to say that God is never found by the man of one book – by the man who thinks he knows. “Not even God can tell the proud anything! Only the humble can find God!”
And Mary is the perfect model of humility. Her humility gave her the simple desire to do God’s will. While she was invited to take part in God’s greatest work of love in the world, she probably did not understand or see at the time how it would all happen, and much of her earthly life would be very ordinary and filled with grief and sadness. In humility she was faithful and obedient to God’s will, and for that, she has a special place in the glory of heaven.
I hope this Christmas might be an occasion for us to grow in humility – a humility that recognizes within ourselves a hunger that only God can satisfy – a humility that receives the Gospel message and wants to share that with the rest of the world – a humility that contemplates and reflects on the work of God in our life and therefore enables us to say yes to God and do his will in all things. Merry Christmas!