What are there in a Christmas crib? What can we learn from them?
1. “…wrapped in swaddling clothes” (Luke 2,7). The swaddling clothes symbolize the humanity of Jesus. He came and embraced our humanity. Jesus went down to our level so that he could raise us to an incomparable level. He was one of us and one among us. He was not ashamed to be identified with us. Although we are small and insignificant, God is always searching and reaching out for us. No matter how less, little or low we are, God makes us feel special. With the birth of Jesus, God extended His hands to us and wrapped us in His loving embrace. This Christmas, let us not forget those who have nothing. Those who have no food on their table. Those who have no clothes or shelter. Those who have no one with them. Let us do something for them this Christmas.
2. “…because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2,7). The inn symbolizes continuous movement. It is a place for transients. It is certainly not a permanent residence. Jesus came to us. He came to us not as a transient, not just as a visitor. He came to stay with us, to remain in our hearts and in our homes. This Christmas, let us invite Jesus permanently into our lives. We must remember Jesus not only this Christmas but in all the seasons of the year and of our lives.
3. “… there were shepherds camping in the countryside” (Luke 2,8). The shepherds were even then considered as ordinary and marginalized people. They had no impressive social status and high educational backgrounds. They were treated as outcasts and some were even looked at as public sinners. But they were the first recipients of the Good News. They were the first who believed and welcomed Jesus. This shows that salvation is open to all. No one is cast out. No one is left out in the cold and dark. Jesus is for all. He welcomed all. This Christmas, let us extend our friendship, our help and our forgiveness to everybody. Let us reach out to all. Let us speak to them. Let us share Jesus with them.
4. “…with the baby lying in the manger” (Luke 2,16). The manger symbolizes food, life. Jesus came to give us new life. He leads us to eternal life. Jesus is offering Himself as our spiritual food. Jesus said, ‘I am the bread of life, whoever comes to me shall never be hungry; and whoever believes in me shall never be thirsty” (John 6, 35). Jesus as the living bread will quench our spiritual hunger. The manger prefigures the table of the Holy Eucharist. This Christmas, let us contritely prepare our souls for Jesus. Let us bring our whole family to the table of the Holy Eucharist and receive Him in Holy Communion.
5. “…wise men from the east arrived” (Matthew 2,1). The wise men represent the “gentiles”. They were those people who were considered by the Jews as “outsiders” from God’s plan of salvation. But these people, as represented by the wise men, are those who are always searching for God and who are willing to sacrifice their power and position for the chance of serving God. They stand for those who, after finding God, are only too willing to offer everything to Him. The coming of the wise men to pay homage to the newborn King connotes that God’s love is for all. All can find God and God is not hard to find. He makes things easy for those who are looking for Him. God is not confined to a particular country or to a particular group of people. God is not exclusive to a certain culture or creed. He wants all to come to Him, to experience Him and to be with Him. This Christmas, let us go to God. Let us offer some sacrifices to God. Let us offer the best we can give to Him.
From these persons and things this is what Christmas really means.
First, Christmas means that God is reaching out to us. Though man sinned and fell from grace, God did not abandon him, God did not ignore man. Instead he made a promise to save him. God fulfilled His promise and did it in an extraordinary way. God did not send a messenger or human intermediaries. He gave us His only Son, Jesus. Saint Matthew wrote in his Gospel, “All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet: the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he will be called Emmanuel which means, God-with-us” (1,22-23). Jesus came among us to experience our pain, our sorrow and our anguish. He became one of us except in sin. Gaudium et Spes, the pope’s encyclical, describes it by affirming, “…for, by his incarnation, he, the Son of God, has united himself with each man. He worked with human hands, he thought with human mind. He acted with human will, and with human heart he loved” (22).
The birth of Jesus is God reaching out for us and freeing us from our old self, from our sins and selfishness to bring us into His Kingdom. God is reachable. He is touchable. God who is divine became human and made himself become vulnerable. God is now among us. With the birth of Jesus, God is extending His hand to us. He will not rest until He has found us. The Christmas season tells us to reach out also to God, to return to Him and to remain with Him.
Let us not remember Jesus only during Christmas. Rather, we must reconcile with Him for the rest of our lives. As we celebrate His birthday, let us not forget to invite Him in our hearts and in our homes.
Second, Christmas means that God is redeeming us. Jesus came out of love and with love. He did not come to punish us or to condemn us. Rather he came to share with us the Father’s love. He brought us the Father’s mercy. He gave us the Father’s forgiveness. Tertio Millenio Adveniente, another of the pope’s encyclicals, affirms this by saying, “Becoming one of us is the greatest humility that the Son of God took. He stripped Himself of His divinity to elevate our dignity” (5).
Jesus redeemed us from our sorry state of sin. Jesus ransomed us from the dominion of Satan, thus reconciling us with the Father. With his birth, Jesus rebuilt the bridge leading us to the Father. He healed our hurts, nursed our wounds, strengthened our tired spirits, cleansed our souls from sin and purified our hearts from shame. He did all these so we could return to the Father and live with Him in our true home which is heaven.
Third, Christmas means that God is restoring those who have wandered away from Him. He is restoring us to our former dignity, to His fellowship. With the birth of Jesus, He returned to us what was lost due to our sins. We got back our dignity as adopted children of God and returned to God’s grace and His loving fold. Jesus became human so that we could be divine. He emptied Himself so that we could have the fullness of life. He became powerless in order to empower us over sin and death. Saint John said in his Gospel, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life. God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; instead, through him the world is to be saved” (3,16-17).
Christmas is going back to the essentials; to what is good and true. In the manger, there were no material comforts, no important guests, no modern conveniences. There only shepherds. There were only the swaddling clothes to wrap the newborn baby in. Yet there was a treasure there beyond compare. Jesus was born. Jesus was there, the “pearl of greatest value.” Let us celebrate our Christmas really with Christ. If we do this, surely there will be love. There will be peace. There will be salvation. For He is with us. We will not be lacking in anything. No one will be left out. No one will feel that “there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2,7).
Let this my prayer for you:
My Lord Jesus, please in your mercy and great love,
Bless all the mothers.
Bless all the fathers.
Bless all the children, especially the newborn.
Bless all the families.
May they reach out to you, reconcile themselves and restore everything to you.
May they commit themselves to serve you.
May they live for you and love you.
+Ruperto Cruz Santos