In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.
He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.
This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth 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 heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Back on September 8th, I celebrated the Mass of the Holy Spirit at John Carroll University. The church that day celebrated the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The gospel was the story of the Annunciation—an easy springboard to reflecting on the Holy Spirit. I was struck by the “Prayer over the Offerings” which reads: “May the humanity of your Only Begotten Son come, O Lord, to our aid, and may he, who at his birth from the Blessed Virgin did not diminish but consecrated her integrity, by taking from us now our wicked deeds, make our offering acceptable to you.”
Surely, the English text of this prayer is more than a bit stilted. But what amazes me about its wording is that we are asking God the Father, through the humanity of Jesus, to come to our aid and make our offering acceptable to God. The Church is reminding us that the birth of Jesus Christ – fully human and fully divine – is the source of our salvation, because in Christ the divine became fully human both in time and in eternity. God became more like us, so that we could grow in holiness and become more like God. As the psalmist writes: “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad!”
—Fr. Brian Paulson, S.J. is the Jesuit Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit province of the Society of Jesus.
Lord Jesus Christ, your heart was moved with love for those in need. You healed the sick, you fed the hungry, you forgave sinners, you cried over Jerusalem. Above all, you showed the pathway to true life, for you are the Way the Truth and the Life.
Open my heart this Christmas season. Help me find practical ways to build your Kingdom of justice, peace and love here on earth. Amen.
—A Jesuit Refugee Service Prayer