In one of our most beloved Christmas carols we sing the joyful refrain, “O come, let us adore him.” Christmas invites all of the faithful to a renewed spirit of adoration and wonder before the mystery we celebrate: the Word has become flesh. God has become a man born of the Virgin Mary. His name is Jesus. He has been born for us and for our salvation in the silence and poverty of the stable at Bethlehem.
God’s humility displayed so poignantly in the manger evokes astonishment and brings our restless hearts to silence before such a great and unexpected gift. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “No one, shepherd or wise man, can approach God here below except by kneeling before the manger at Bethlehem and adoring him hidden in the weakness of a newborn child.” (CCC 563)
In the beautiful Gospel narratives of the Christmas season, the angels herald the birth of Jesus with tidings of great joy. The shepherds, in turn, glorify and praise God for all that they are privileged to see and hear. The star guides the three wise men who bring their gifts from afar and pay homage to the newborn King. Joseph is mysteriously and powerfully silent. And Mary ponders all of these things in her heart. The mystery of Bethlehem invites us to adoration.
It is significant that Bethlehem, the place of Jesus’ birth, means “house of bread.” Jesus comes to nourish the world by giving himself for the life of the world. Years later he proclaims, “I AM the bread of life.” Jesus continues to give himself for us and for our salvation each time the Paschal Mystery is celebrated at Mass. He continues to nourish us in Holy Communion and to dwell among us truly present in the Blessed Sacrament.
For Christians, Bethlehem is our first school. The school of Bethlehem invites us to learn the lesson of adoration and humility. It begins at the manger where Mary is our teacher. As we ponder with her the mystery of the Word-made-flesh, we find that our hunger for the Eucharist and our desire to encounter and adore Jesus deepen.
As we are drawn more deeply into friendship with Jesus through our regular participation in the Eucharist, our lives become increasingly eucharistic. Our encounter with God’s mercy fills us with joy and gratitude. We discover that what we have received as a gift we need to give as a gift. We become missionary disciples of mercy for others.
All of these mysteries converge beautifully in the Eucharistic liturgy, the Mass, which is the source and summit of our lives. As we celebrate the birth of Christ this Christmas season, be assured of my prayers for you and your loved ones throughout the New Year.