What kinds of thoughts go through your mind when you see recently born children?
Most of us wonder what their lives will be like. We pray they will be happy and healthy. We may wish for success, security. We hope they will not have to face war or violence of any sort. We desire that love be present in their lives.
Matthew and Luke who have given us the Christmas story present us with the thoughts and reactions of a great number of people to Jesus' birth. Writing with the advantage of knowing how this life will go, they prepare us for what is to come with subtle and not so subtle hints and details.
Thus the story of Jesus' birth and first days become a prologue to and preview of the rest of the Gospel. Along with Joseph and Mary we hear that he is born a Savior. But what that means will become known only later.
In these infancy narratives, we meet those who encounter this child with openness and wonder: shepherds, foreigners from the East, Anna and Simeon, the poor, the marginalized, the common people who form the majority of his future audience.
We also meet the scribes and priests who have the advantage of knowing the prophecies but nonetheless fail to accept this child of Bethlehem as their long awaited Messiah. We find the political power of Herod threatened by this birth so that the launches a persecution to kill the infant before he can assume power. The shadow of the wooden cross is a long one, reaching from Calvary to the wooden manger. And, one must assume there are others who failed to see in this child anything more than just another child.
All these reactions will be present in the future ministry of the baby then grown up. Some will see, wonder, hope, and believe. Others will reject, challenge, and seek to rid themselves of one who calls them to examine their assumptions about God and who questions their places of power and privilege. And many will look and see nothing more than a curiosity of the moment who entertains or astounds but does not really affect their daily living.
Christmas is not just about a birth.. It begins a process of faith and of acceptance or disbelief and rejection There is no middle ground.
What is your reaction as you contemplate this child before you? Where will it lead you when the babe of Bethlehem proclaims and lives the rest of the Gospel?
-Fr Sas, Christmas Homily, 2014