The carolers were singing, incense was rising, and the candles chased away the darkness that cold Christmas Eve. It was a beautiful mass as usual in my small country parish, but I wasn’t able to properly appreciate it.
I hovered in one of the last pews, hoping to hide in the shadows. I wanted to be invisible to the familiar faces filling the pews all around me.
This particular Christmas, I experienced the miracle of the Incarnation like never before. When I saw baby Jesus lying in the manger, the full reality of that little cherub hit me.
The King of the Universe, Emmanuel, God with us, came to us as a newborn. He looked nothing like the familiar images of a chubby, squeezable baby, sitting contently in Mary’s lap.
Jesus came out as a helpless, scrawny little newborn, unable to even lift up his poor head.
This truth was so real for me as I meditated upon it with tears streaming down my cheeks as I tried to hide my face and broken body from those around me.
Close to 24 hours earlier, I myself had given birth to a tiny baby girl. I could feel the reality of childbirth, as struggling with a very long and very dangerous labor left its toll. I arrived home from the hospital, fed the baby, and headed off to mass alone.
The birth of Jesus surely wasn’t as traumatic or scary as the birth of my Jacinta had been, as Mary was free from original sin and all of it’s effects.
But baby Jesus was still a newborn, with that adorable startle reflex, in need of a good swaddle. Mary surely laid him across her chest to keep his body temperature warm enough as his little body adjusted to life outside the womb.
Did she marvel at his goodness as she held that little hand in her own, opening up that tight newborn fist to count his perfectly formed fingers?
Did she excitedly call for St. Joseph when he first peeked open those precious eyes to look up at her for the first time?
Did she gently stroke his matted hair as he sleepily nursed at her side?
And did she gently sway on her throne of straw as she patted his little back, waiting for the itty-bitty burp to come so that the two of them could lie down, snuggled up together, to drift off to sleep while St. Joseph stood watch and did his best to block the draft from hitting their holy bodies?
Jesus, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, could have just said the word and appeared, fully grown and mature. But it was in this Divine plan that he came into this world in the most natural of ways, so that we, who may be afraid to approach our Heavenly Father, wouldn’t be shy to approach him in this most humble and helpless state.
I will forever look at the miracle of Christmas differently, and I challenge you to experience Christmas this year with a fresh set of eyes. Set aside the habit of going through the season on auto-pilot. Sure, we may have heard the story of Jesus’ birth one-hundred times, but let the one-hundred and first time be as if it were the first time.
Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you and whisper the message that you need to hear this Christmas season.
I will be praying for you!
Until next time, your sister in Christ,