Tag Archives: birth of Jesus Christ

The Birth of Jesus Christ

mary 10

On the final evening of our mission last night at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware we reflected on the basic prayers of the season during a short catechesis and  the Infancy narrative from Luke in a longer sermon.

Advent and Christmas are rich with aids to prayer. Let’s reclaim the symbols of the season so they can lead us to reflection and prayer. These days we put lights in the dark, a religious symbol; Jesus said he was the light of the world. The Christmas tree is a symbol of the tree of paradise. Let’s pray in the places where we see them that God bless those places and the people in them.  The carols are little catechisms, let’s listen to their message.

So many of our basic prayers from this season are taken from the bible. Let’s link them to the bible narratives they came from. The Our Father is an obvious example. That’s the prayer Jesus not only taught but lived.

The Angelus and the Hail Mary are prayers linked to the great follower of Jesus, Mary his mother. They are drawn from the Annunciation and the Visitation and mystery of the birth of Jesus. The angel not only spoke to Mary but to us as well. Doesn’t the Word made flesh also dwells with us? We have a model for daily prayer in the prayers associated with Mary. Let those prayers teach us how to pray.

The infancy narrative from Luke is our primary reading for Christmas. Keep in mind that Luke sees Jesus as the world’s Savior  whose message goes out to the whole world. Luke introduces his narrative with Caesar Augustus, ruler of the Roman world, who unified the world and brought it peace. A providential figure, he facilitated the spread of the good news brought by the Child in the manger. Later in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke relates the growth of the church as it reaches the whole world, even Rome itself.

Luke’s gospel is an optimistic gospel that points  to continual growth for the church. Beginning with the poor shepherds on the hillside, Jesus will draw all peoples, all nations,  to himself.

Of course, today we wonder about the spread of Christianity as we in the western world experience a decline.  A recent survey in England noted that only 59% of the English identified themselves as Christian today. Ten years ago it was 79%.  I don’t think our situation in the US is  too different.

One British commentator says that we are moving now to time when religion will be embraced by decision and commitment instead of by cultural acceptance.

A survey last year from the Pew Research Center gave some interesting statistics about religion throughout the world. There are approximately 6.9 billion people in the world in 2010.  2.18 billion are Christians, about a third of the world’s population.While Christianity is declining in the western world it’s growing rapidly in Africa and Asian.

The report notes that since 1910 a great shift has taken place among world religions. Instead of being concentrated in Europe, Christianity has grown enormously in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region, where there were relatively few Christians at the beginning of the 20th century.  “Christianity has become a global religion. Christians are also geographically widespread – so far-flung, in fact, that no single continent or region can indisputably claim to be the center of global Christianity.”

A third of the world’s population call themselves Christian. Half of them are Roman Catholic.

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, of poor unknown parents. He grew up unrecognized in a small discounted Galilean town called Nazareth. For a few years he taught, he healed people of illnesses, he raised the dead to life, he gathered disciples who followed him. They abandoned him when he was put to death on a cross. Then he rose from the dead.

You would might expect that history would forget him as it does so many others, like Caesar Augustus.  But Jesus Christ hasn’t been forgotten.   Over two billion people in our world today remember him and follow him.

“Christianity has become a global religion.” Luke’s portrayal of the church is on target.

I Wonder

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,

why Jesus, our Savior, was born for to die,

for poor, orn’ry people like you and like I

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

Wonder is a word we use often at Christmas.It describes our reaction to something  beyond what we expect, beyond our experience and our understanding. It’s so big it leaves us lost for words.

We describe the mystery we celebrate today as the wonder of the Incarnation.The wonder that God, who made all things could become human like us, and in such startling circumstances.

A woman was telling me about her little girl, Isabel. She’s in the first grade in a little Catholic school down the street from us and they were into the Christmas story recently.

“She can’t wait to go to school, ” her mother said. “They’re putting together a creche for the Baby Jesus and they’re learning all about the angels, and the wise men who come to the stable on camels, and Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds and the wicked king who want to kill all the babies in Bethlehem. They’re offering little prayers that the whole world be blessed when he comes.”

Isabel is enthralled by it all. “Mommy, did you know Jesus had to sleep on straw. That  straw we put in the crib would  hurt him when he slept on it.”

Isabel was asking what she was going to get for Christmas, and her mother told her that before we open our hand to get anything we have to open it to give something. So Isabel wants enough money to buy presents for everyone in the world. She’s going to have to see the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States for a bailout like that, her mother says.

The Christmas story is a wonderful story. Children are delighted by it: it touches the oldest and wisest of us.

I was reading a Christmas sermon of St. Augustine recently. You can see him wondering  too about this great mystery. Listen to him.

The Word of God, maker of time, becoming flesh was born in time.

Born today, he made all days.

Ageless with the Father, born of a mother, he began counting his years.

Man’s maker became man; the ruler of the stars sucked at a mother’s breasts,

Bread hungered,

the Fountain thirsted,

the way was wearied by the journey,

the truth was accused by false witnesses,

the life slept in death,

the judge of the living and the dead was judged by a human judge,

justice was condemned by injustice,

the righteous was beaten by whips,

the cluster of grapes was crowned with thorns,

the upholder of all hung from a tree,

strength became weak,

health was stricken with wounds,

life died.

He humbled himself that we might be raised up.

He suffered evil that we might receive good,

Son of God before all days, son of man these last days,

from the mother he made, from the woman who would never be, unless he made

her.  (Augustine, Sermon 191, 1; PL 38, 1010)

Through the years, this mystery of God made so many wonder. May it bring us to  wonder today.