When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Lk 2:15-20).
The shepherds of the Judean hills were rough and simple men. But perhaps only in their simplicity could they hear the message that drew them urgently in the night toward Bethlehem. They received the words of the angel with joy and without fear. They acted on this great revelation of God in a spirit of faith, and that faith led them to Mary and Joseph and a Child.
When they found him, they understood, and they made known to others the message they had been told about this Child. And Scripture tells us that all who heard them were amazed.
Today, in our lifetimes, we need to follow in the footsteps of these shepherds. We should ask God for the grace to be astonished, as they were, as we draw close to the manger, because the truth of this Child is beyond anything we could hope for or expect. We should ask God for the grace to be simple and pure of heart, as the shepherds were; to radiate the joy of their discovery, as they did.
Let us see in this infant Jesus our true Messiah and the beginning of our salvation. And let us ask God for the faith and courage to make known to the world around us all that’s been revealed to us about this miraculous event.
The newborn in the manger grows into the Redeemer who frees us from the slavery of sin and the fear of death. He comforts us. He encourages us. He teaches us. He walks with us in our sufferings. He fills us with hope. He offers us life — eternal life — without charge or obligation other than to love one another as he loves us.
Far from violating our freedom, this Child restores it, dignifies our humanity with his own incarnate holiness, and then adds immeasurably to it with his victory over death on our behalf, won by dying for our sins on the cross and then rising from the grave. This infant Jesus will give us God’s Spirit, who breathes new life into our hearts and invites us to love even our enemies and persecutors.
Whatever our burdens and worries, these days of Christmas are an amnesty. This Christmas, in this Year of Mercy, let us go over to Bethlehem in our hearts to see this Child. And then let us share him joyfully with the world.
May God bless you and your families, and all of the people in our parishes and Archdiocese, with a merry Christmas season and a holy and happy new year. I’ll remember all of you in my Christmas Masses, and I ask you to pray for me as well.