Christmas Day (December 25, 2023)


The First Christmas.

It is the final phase of Mary’s pregnancy. The Baby is about to be born. But there is a mandate from the government that they need to register for the census. Left no choice, they have to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Traveling this time might be a little bit challenging given the delicate conditions of the pregnant Virgin Mary.

After a few days of travelling, Bethlehem is finally in sight. They all look exhausted. The faster they can do the registration, the better. They want to go home as soon as possible for the sake of Mary and the child.

Indeed, God’s plan is beyond human understanding. Suddenly, Mary begins to labour and tells Joseph that she is about to give birth. As the head of the family, it is his normal reaction to look for the available room for his family. But the inns are full. Mary now feels the pain in crescendo as every minute passes by. Joseph races against time to find a suitable place for his family; but no inn is available for them. Would that people could provide them even with a tiny room for his wife who by this time must already be tired. But they have their own priorities; they too are tired and need to rest. Letting go of their good night’s sleep is not worth it for the lowly couple whom they do not know.

It is getting dark. The cold night breeze keeps all the doors and windows closed; it is the perfect time to rest. But Joseph, refusing to give up, has now forgotten how tired he is. His adrenaline rush keeps him on his feet in search for the possible immediate solution. He is sweating and nervous,  worried and afraid. He takes a deep breath and keeps his focus. He cannot be discouraged by the indifference of others. Then suddenly, not far from the inn, he sees a manger. He runs to check it. “This one is better than nothing,” he tells himself. He cleans and prepares it as fast as he can to make Mary as comfortable as possible. It still has smell but he has no time to wash it. Then he brings out and lays everything that they have so Mary can lie down. The people in the inn, sound asleep, do not realize the pitiful situation of the woman who is about to give birth. The Holy Couple is left alone in the manger in the middle of the cold night. By this time, they had nobody with them except the animals.

Not long enough, the Baby boy is born. With just the two of them and no relatives or friends around to help them, Joseph, a carpenter by profession, has become the midwife, the caregiver, the nurse and the doctor of Mary and Jesus. He holds the Baby so tenderly. Then he lifts Him, and gives Him to His mother. Tears of joy fall from Mary’s eyes as she beholds for the first time the Word that has been announced to her by the archangel. Then she places Him above her chest and embraces Him for so long until she falls asleep. Joseph, still caught in amazement and still unable to comprehend what has just happened, gazes at his family with great love and joy.

His fear is now replaced with peace, his sadness with joy, his tears with smile on his face. It does not matter to him now that they are alone, in the middle of the night, away from their friends and relatives. What matters to him the most is that the Baby and the mother are safe and that they are complete as a family. It is the first Christmas.

The occupied inns are reflections of how occupied and unworthy the human hearts are—as compared to that the dirty and smelly manger—in receiving the Son of God. There were no Christmas songs except the choirs of angels because human voice is not good enough to sing a hymn of worship to the Son of God. There were no Christmas lights except the star that shone brightly above the manger because the light of the world is fading and is not bright enough to lead the wise men to God. It is indeed a silent night and a holy night; the night of all nights.

When life bombards us with struggles, when people close their hearts to us and push us away, let us think of the first Christmas. Perhaps we might compare ourselves to that manger, dirty and smelly. But let us remember that it is the same smelly and dirty manger that received the Son of God. It was God that made that manger holy. God it is, then, that makes us holy. Only God can love us for whoever we are without conditions and without limits.

When the shepherds and the wise men arrived, the dirty and smelly manger was superseded by the sight of the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. They did not worship Mary or Joseph; they worshipped Jesus. Their gifts were not intended for Mary and Joseph but for the King who was born in the lowly manger. Life is not about us; it is always about Jesus. Jesus is the center, the reason, and the essence of Christmas. Christmas is and will always be about Jesus.

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Fr. Jovy Gallego, OAR

Fr. Jovy Gallego, OAR