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Receiving the Newborn Christ
The Nativity of the Lord: Christmas, Mass during the Night
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, 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.” And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Opening Prayer: The day of your birth has come, Lord, and as I draw close to the manger, I join the angels’ hymn of praise: Glory to God in the highest. I praise you, Lord, for I believe you have made yourself so small, for love of me. I hope in the redemption you have come to give me, and in this moment of prayer, I bow my head and my heart before you to kiss your tiny baby brow. Let me open my heart to your love in this moment of prayer.
- All Went to Be Enrolled: Just as Mary and Joseph had to go forth from the comfort of their home–the nursery all prepared for their new baby with family and friends close by and eager to help–so, too, the Lord and Maker of all, even greater than Emperor Caesar himself, went forth from his heavenly throne to be enrolled as one more among us. On this Christmas Day, I pause, I linger a few moments in prayer before the humility and utter goodness of my God who has done this for me. He made himself so small and unthreatening that no one could be afraid of drawing near to him. I let gratitude and wonder well up in my heart’s response.
- Mangerside, with Mary and Joseph: What was it like in the humble cave, filled with animals and straw, as Mary gazed upon her son and Savior for the first time? How she and Joseph must have exchanged glances as she gently laid the baby in his arms. In this moment of prayer, we invite Mary and Joseph to take our hands and lead us into this timeless space where heaven meets earth in an utterly unthinkable way. They draw us into their wonder and awe at God’s humble self-giving, and we realize they draw us, too, into God’s family in a new way. Here is my God, born in the city known as the House of Bread, Bethlehem, and lying in the manger, a place where animals feed. He is the Lord who has come to make himself the Bread of God. Kneeling at the mangerside, the Holy Family beside us, we learn that to love–to be family–is to give oneself. We enter this moment and let our heart respond.
- Learning to Receive Him: In ancient Israel, shepherds were often looked upon as outsiders, lesser folks whose work kept them routinely “unclean,” and therefore unfit to worship God in the temple. It was precisely to those cast aside by others that the good news was first proclaimed. In this moment of prayer, we place ourselves among the shepherds and hear the angels’ message; we witness their reaction change from fear to unmatched joy: they have been chosen by God to be the first to recognize him who has come. The very sign that marked him as Savior–wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger–is precisely his poverty (like the shepherds and like mine!). Let us learn from the shepherds to receive him, and linger in praise and adoration with the prayer of the angels: Glory to God!
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, I come to your mangerside together with your mother, your foster father, and the shepherds. With them, I adore you. I gaze upon you, in the manger and I see foretold there the tabernacle and altar before which I kneel in every Mass. I look around the cave and I see the Holy Family and the first community of believers. You teach me, by coming to me within a family, what it means to love. You teach me how to give. This is a season for giving! But teach me, also, how to receive—how to receive your love and how to receive love from those around me. I praise you and I love you, infant King, and in my heart, I kiss your tiny, newborn brow.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will actively strive to imitate you and the Holy Family by giving to and receiving from my own family and community with love.
For Further Reflection: Hum your favorite Christmas carol slowly, reflecting on the timeless lyrics.
Beth Van de Voorde is a Regnum Christi Consecrated Woman, currently serving in pastoral ministry to families in Madrid, Spain. When she’s not reading Ratzinger or humming along to some song or another, you may find her making her pilgrim way through Spain’s timeless history of faith, walking alongside the beautiful families she’s there to serve.