It is one of those marvellous aspects of the mysteries of our faith, the unmistakable mark of God’s presence in our history, that they contain in themselves and at first sight, the remedy for all human ills, the recipe for the restoration of all things. The crib and the cross, without explanation and by the very fact that they happened, speak volumes. Is that not the reason for which we never tire of contemplating the touching scene of Bethlehem?
At the centre of it all: the Child. The Babe. The Innocent. The Speechless. The Pure. The Omnipotent Word does not speak. Or rather He speaks by not speaking. And what does He say?
The Child lying between Mary and Joseph offer us two essential lessons, lessons we could say designed for our very age, but in reality destined for every age. The very sight of the babe is a remedy for one of the major ills of our time. The babe by his just being there reminds us that the union of the sexes has a finality. God made man and woman to be fruitful, and this reality constitutes a continual, silent, but firm and relentless condemnation of the madness of modern unbridled lust which tears apart hearts, destroys families, and kills bodies. The babe has always been a sign of love, but love that gives and sacrifices. Without the babe, love turns into brutality; it weakens, corrupts and poisons.
As so many powers that be remain intent on promoting so-called reproductive rights (understand the right to lust and to the right to kill the fruit of lust), the new birth of Christ the Lord comes as a salutary condemnation of all forms of lust, and as an unshakable hope that all things can be restored.
Of course, in the Babe of Bethlehem, there is much more, for as the world seeks to drown itself in pleasure without its fruit, we know through faith that this Babe is given as the fruit of life without the the pleasure of conception. The Christ Child, surrounded by Mary the Ever Virgin and Joseph her most Chaste Spouse, radiates purity, chastity. He smiles upon us with our past sins, and our broken lives, and assures us that with His grace all things are possible. Christmas is there to remind us that, yes, purity will prevail in our world, for it prevails today in those who embrace it with the heart of a child.
And that brings us to the second great lesson of this night. The Babe in the manger teaches, without words, the great monastic virtue par excellence: humility. Baffled, the world looks on: the Eternal God stoops to become a helpless babe; the Almighty abandons His might to become weak; the One who commands the choirs of angels obeys a poor human creature. The Infant God in the crib is the ultimate condemnation of human pride, and there is no appeal. God has spoken once, and He will not change: Unless you become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of Heaven.
This Christmas, let us go to the Crib with great longing. Let us lay down there all our fears, all our impurities, all our pride. Let us beg for the grace to become docile, to abandon all ambition, to turn over control of our life to One who knows better, to the One who looks after the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, and who loves us as his own children.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, from Thy crib in Bethlehem, let the light of Thy tiny countenance shine upon us, heal us, invigorate us, and having led us through the purifying fires of humiliation and chastity, may it raise us up and make us the apostles Thy divine heart longs to have on this earth.