Already at birth, Jesus offers himself as the food that gives life and saves. Unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we have no life within us.
Mary does not lay her child in a crib. Rather, she lays him, wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a manger, which holds the food for animals. That is because she and Joseph have received no welcome in the inn. Right after birth, then, Jesus reveals himself as the necessary food that, unfortunately, many find unacceptable.
And this revelation is key, as the angel points out. The sign he gives to the shepherds is the “child in swaddling clothes that is lying in a manger.” In other words, to know the Savior is to know him as an outcast who loves, however, to the end.
That is how surprising Jesus’ love is. There is something unusual about this heir to the throne of David: he is poor and lowly at birth. He does not even have a place to stay as he comes into the world (SV.EN IX:51).
Already from birth, moreover, he is not one of the kings who seek to grab everything to swallow it all up. On the contrary, he shows that he is willing to become our food, to give himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness. His wishes us life and life to the full. He wants us to enjoy in wonder and forever his counsels, his peace, justice and mercy.
And the child Jesus does not dazzle with the glory that is his as the only Son of the Father. His glory simply draws us to “an infant, … a weak and powerless God” (SV.EN XII:165).
Nor does Jesus use his power to strike fear into people’s heart, as do Caesar Augustus and Quirinius. He shares it with us, rather, so that we may become his brothers and sisters, and the children of God.
We become such as we, like Mary and Joseph, embrace the child Jesus with humility and in wonder. Our embrace of the child born to us proves true, when we become food for others.
We know Jesus, yes, when we know him as the one who lays down his life for us. Such knowledge means we ought to lay down our life for our brothers and sisters. That is how “inventive to infinity” our love ought to be also (SV.EN XI:131).
Otherwise, we will remain in death. We will likewise be among those who say, “This teaching is hard. Who can accept it?
Lord Jesus, we celebrate your birth. Grant us to see you, the Savior of the world, as though a nobody, under the form of a child (SV.EN VI:170). Draw us also to your lowliness, and turn us into food for others.
25 December 2017
Nativity of the Lord
Is 9, 1-6; Tit 2, 11-14; Lk 2, 1-14