At the time of Jesus’ birth, the whole world is in movement. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem to be counted in the census, reminding us that the world today is also traveling toward its definitive encounter with God. The journey of the Holy Family toward the moment in which God enters the world from the womb of Mary, in the Person of Jesus Christ, for all human eyes to see, reminds us that we too are moving on our own journey through this life, in company with millions of others, to our own definitive encounter with God.
Mary and Joseph found no comfort, no welcome, no shelter, no understanding from the world on this journey. They followed and were supported by heavenly inspirations and light, the presence of angels, and their own profound faith in God’s never-changing goodness and His ever-present Providence. This was their strength and consolation.
We also should not expect too much help from the world on this journey. The world has no space for God. No time. No real interest. It offers only distraction and a kind of movement which keeps the human heart in confusion, apprehension and vague unhappiness. The world is full of activity which often has no ultimate meaning. This activity spends the precious moments allotted to us to find our way home to Our Heavenly Father.
God enters our world in the fullness of time because He can no longer wait to be with us in Person. But Christmas also comes because mankind, in the persons of Mary and Joseph, the shepherds and the wise men, seek God as well; because the intense, hidden longing of their souls has not been misinterpreted to them by the false prophets of the world. Their interior has not been cluttered with distraction. It is unfettered by illusion. God is their inner life and moves them in a mutual, eager longing, in silence, in poverty, in simplicity, in penetrating light and redeeming love. Mary and Joseph “walk the
way of perfection” to Bethlehem because they know God and are the friends of God. They call us to follow this way with them, a way which holds difficulty, discomfort, the contempt of the world, but which brings us to be the friends of God, as the psalmist says: “He who walks the way of perfection shall be my friend.” -Ps 101 Jesus silently stirs our hearts and beckons us to the embrace of true friendship with Himself, promising to make known to us all that He has heard from the Father. –Jn 15:15 This happens in God’s way, in His time and by His choosing. And it brings us the most precious gift of all, God Himself as a tiny baby depending on us to love Him, to care for Him and nurture His life in ourselves and in others.
In Bethlehem, two longings meet: the longing of God and the longing of man. Two longings answer each other and fulfill each other. May our poor and lowly souls this Christmas be still as the stable in Bethlehem at midnight, ever ready to receive our Lord in humble awe, in mutual longing. May we be the ones to be wrapped tightly with the gifts of Christmas peace, light, love and joy. And may that Divine love which becomes incarnate in Bethlehem, radiate outward to all mankind through our oneness with the Holy Family in this sublime mystery. May this Christmas find us and those we love and hold dear, numbered in the heavenly census, as citizens traveling joyfully forward to our celestial Fatherland.
United with all of you in the joy and light of the greatest gift of the Most Holy Trinity this Christmas: our Savior and Beloved.
Sr. Anne Marie Walsh
Society of Our Lady