The Catholic Defender: The Story of the Nativity of the Lord
In the 40 days before Christmas, the faithful participate in Advent, a time of spiritual cleansing and preparation for the birth of Jesus. The Nativity of Jesus celebrates the incarnation of God, which means that he came to earth to live as a man and undo the damage caused by the fall of the first man, Adam.
Mary is visited by an angel and told that she will fulfill a prophecy and as a virgin give birth to God's son, the savior of the world. Mary's pregnancy brings her the scorn of the community and Joseph struggles to believe her seemingly outlandish story.
In the familiar version of the Christmas story, Mary and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Because there was no room in the inn, the baby Jesus is born in a stable and placed in a manger. His humble birth is celebrated by choirs of angels and shepherds, and he is given precious gifts by the mysterious Magi.
A nativity scene takes its inspiration from the accounts of the birth of Jesus in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Luke's narrative describes an angel announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds who then visit the humble site where Jesus is found lying in a manger, a trough for cattle feed.
On this day, the Church focuses especially on the newborn Child, God become human, who embodies for us all the hope and peace we seek. We need no other special saint today to lead us to Christ in the manger, although his mother Mary and Joseph, caring for his foster-son, help round out the scene.
But if we were to select a patron for today, perhaps it might be appropriate for us to imagine an anonymous shepherd, summoned to the birthplace by a wondrous and even disturbing vision in the night, a summons from an angelic choir, promising peace and goodwill. A shepherd willing to seek out something that might just be too unbelievable to chase after, and yet compelling enough to leave behind the flocks in the field and search for a mystery.
On the day of the Lord’s birth, let’s let an unnamed, “non-celebrity” at the edge of the crowd model for us the way to discover Christ in our own hearts—somewhere between skepticism and wonder, between mystery and faith. And like Mary and the shepherds, let’s treasure that discovery in our hearts.
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)
In the second century Saint Clement of Alexandria also indicates that the day of the Nativity of Christ is December 25. In the third century Saint Hippolytus of Rome mentions the Feast of the Nativity of Christ, and appoints the Gospel readings for this day from the opening chapters of Saint Matthew.
Concurring with the witness of the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church, in their God-inspired writings, describe the Feast of the Nativity of Christ as most profound, and joyous, serving as the basis and foundation for all the other Feasts.
On December 25, we observe the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord. Since the fourth century, Christians have marked this day as the beginning of the Christmas season.
Second only to Easter, Christmas is one of the most important days in the Church. The Nativity tells the story of Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem. Because there was no room at any of the inns due to the census, Jesus, the savior of the world, was born in a stable. After Jesus’s birth, Angels proclaimed him as a savior for all, and shepherds went to the stable to adore him.
In the 40 days before Christmas, the faithful participate in Advent, a time of spiritual cleansing and preparation for the birth of Jesus.
The Nativity of Jesus celebrates the incarnation of God, which means that he came to earth to live as a man and undo the damage caused by the fall of the first man, Adam.
And this is the crux of why we celebrate Christmas: because it allowed us to receive God’s grace. There is nothing we can do to earn salvation. None of us will measure up. And yet, God offers his grace as a free gift.
Christmas serves as a reminder that God continues to love us, no matter what we do or who we are. It is not about acting the right way, or always doing the right thing. God’s love is constant. It is unconditional.
Matthew 2:10 says that when the shepherds saw the star proclaiming the savior’s birth, “they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.”
As Christians, we can share in this great joy. Joy does not refer to “happiness at all times.” Happiness is fleeting, and depends on circumstances. There are many Christmases where it feels there is nothing to be happy about.
However, joy is something that comes from God. We experience joy because of what God has done for us, and is sustained by him. Only sin can remove joy from our lives.
Will you feel that kind of joy this Christmas? Are you able to rejoice exceedingly with great joy, not matter the circumstances?
Joy is available to all Christians. We can pray for it and acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. We need only ask for this kind of endless joy.
This Christmas, we pray that you experience the joy of the Lord in your life and are able to praise God for the many gifts he has given you. On behalf of Sunday Mass at Mercy Home, we wish you a very merry Christmas!