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Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Lord Comes, not on the Clouds of Heaven, but as a Baby in a Manger

I was cuddling my grandson Max yesterday. He was missing his mommy and daddy who were off on secret Santa business. As I rocked Max I gazed across the room at the manger scene. I have several set up around the house this season so I can hardly go into a room without reflecting on the Lord Who comes. And it makes me think.

Why did Jesus come as a baby? He is, after all, -- the Lord of the universe, the creator of all things, He Who is and Who was and Who will be. He is all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing -- and yet He comes to us, His sinful creatures, as a helpless baby.

What would we expect if we were to guess how God would come to us? Would he come as a king? An emperor? A world judge with the power to pass judgment and dispense justice?

He is all those things and we will certainly see Him that way on the Day of Judgment. But He came to us as a helpless baby? Why?

I can only think of one answer -- love -- love for His creatures. Not "pizza love" that appreciates something for the pleasure it can give to the self. No! An intimate love of self-giving, the love of the Song of Songs where the lover pursues the beloved for him or herself and is willing to suffer and sacrifice, and even die, for the good of the beloved.

Think of the mosaic of the risen Lord at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. If you met Jesus like that, what would your first reaction be? I know mine would be fear. Think of the reaction of all those to whom God sent angel messengers. The angels' first words during their visitations were, "Do not be afraid." If an angel in his glory inspires fear, how much more the Lord of heaven and earth, Creator of the angels?

But Jesus didn't want to inspire fear. And so He came to us as a helpless baby in poverty. His father worked at manual labor building objects of beauty and usefulness that would be a part of common work and home life: tables and chairs, plows and yokes, wagons and carts. And Jesus grew up, first as little one on His mother's lap or toddling by her side, then among other children as a playmate and friend and apprentice to His father, and always a faithful son to His parents who worshiped with them at the synagogue.

What does the hidden life of Jesus reveal to us? His humility absolutely! That God should make Himself subject to His creatures confounds us. That he should be obedient to them and recognize their authority over Him  pricks our pride and calls us to bow our heads in shave over our own self-importance.

Our reaction to the babe in the manger should be that of three kings who kneel, remove their crowns, and kiss His feet. "I am not worthy to unfasten the straps of His sandals."

Yes, we can approach the baby without fear except the awe of "fear of the Lord" that comes from recognizing His great love for us. "Who is man that Thou art mindful of him?"

Come, Lord Jesus. Come! Recreate us in your own image of humility and obedience. Give us the grace to abandon our pride and bend the knee before You. "O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine." And teach us, Mother Mary, to imitate your "Yes."

May the Baby in the manger fill your heart with humility and love this Christmas Season.

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