Homily for the feast of the Nativity

Year B - Mass at Midnight - Luke 2:1-14


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirini-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.


"And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.


"And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, 'Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!'"





Homily:


"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirini-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city."


Today is Christmas! On this night, 1999 years ago, a Savior was born to us: "Puer natus est nobis!" The Light, the Word of God which enlightens all men with his Truth, illuminates this night, this world of shadows dominated by the power of tyrants and despots. Indeed, Caesar Augustus had ordered the census of all the people of his empire. Caesar Augustus believed that he dominated the world, when, at the very instant, the Lord of Lords appeared among us and would quickly overthrow the illusions of the arrogant and proud who see themselves as masters when they should rather consider themselves to be poor servants of the living and eternal God.


"And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child."


It is written: "And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah: for from you shall come a ruler who will govern my people Israel." (Mt. 2:6 - Micah 5:1) Jesus, the Messiah, was to be born in Bethlehem. Now, as we know, the Incarnation of the Son of God took place in Nazareth, in Galilee. Joseph and Mary knew the Scriptures very well, and notably the prophecies concerning the Messiah (everyone knew that the period of time announced by Daniel was nearing its end - cf. Dn. 9:24); Joseph and Mary, let us say, must have asked themselves for several months how the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem was to be fulfilled.


The Angel Gabriel, who had appeared to Mary, had even spoken to her concerning Elizabeth, her cousin. It was this which led Mary to visit Elizabeth soon thereafter, in order to help her as she awaited the birth of John the Baptist. So why then did the Angel Gabriel say nothing to her about the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem? Nor did the Angel say anything about this to Joseph, to whom he had appeared in a dream (cf. Mt. 1:20).


"And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn."


Mary was to wait until the final weeks of her pregnancy to learn, along with Joseph, that they were to leave immediately for Bethlehem, in order to be counted in the census; and that, most probably, the prophecy would be fulfilled: the Child Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. So, the Emperor's order became the sign that God gave to Joseph and Mary in order to confirm the prophecy that Micah had proclaimed in his name.


God is faithful: he never abandons his servants. If he must provide a sign to those who obey him from the bottom of their heart, then he gives it to them, one way or another. This sign from God to men is great, for it bears witness to his favor and to his benevolence towards them. This sign is very great, for it causes Joseph and Mary to leave a village, Nazareth, and go to the town of the great King, to the city of King David! But the greater the sign, the more it must cost those who receive it. Sometimes God tests his servants first, and rewards them afterwards. In this case, the Lord first granted to Joseph and Mary the greatest of graces: the Word of God himself. Then, he asked them for something in return: they had to leave their beloved home of Nazareth, along with all the things they had prepared for the birth of Jesus, and go to Bethlehem, where they would have to submit to the hostility of its residents and content themselves with a grotto and a manger for shelter and bedding. Injustice? No. Rather: the greatness of God's sign!


"And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, 'Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!'"


God sent his Angels to invite simple shepherds to render homage to the Savior of Mankind, his beloved Son. Why invite simple shepherds? Couldn't God have sent the Angels to the inhabitants of Bethlehem, and principally to the prominent townsfolk? Certainly. But it was too late... The inhabitants of Bethlehem had already rejected his Son when he had presented himself to them within the womb of Mary. The residents of the City of the great King did not recognize the Son of God in Mary, they did not receive him with solemn exclamations, such as those which came forth from the mouth of Elizabeth, Mary's cousin (cf. Lk. 1:42). "He came to his own home, and his own people received him not." (Jn. 1:11)


The shepherds believed in the word of the Angels, they went to the manger where the Child God rested. The shepherds rendered homage to He who would become the Shepherd of Israel, the Shepherd of all nations. With them, let us render glory to God! And may the flame of our Love, through Mary, who brought the eternal Light into the world, shine ceaselessly in God's sight and in the sight of the entire world, a world that awaits our testimony and our proclamation of the faith! Amen!