The Greatest Story every told started with a baby surrounded by His mother and father and a bunch of animals. No cell phone, no GPS no luxuries—just the desire to do God’s will.
Apparently God’s will was not easy. During a most important time in their life, Joseph and Mary were homeless. Being homeless is more prevalent today than ever. Though unforeseen circumstances folks can find themselves out on the streets. We are blessed in our Parish Community with a group of dedicated parishioners who prepare food and deliver the food to about 50 people every day—from their own resources. We are tempted to conclude that people on the streets got in trouble with the law or have no education or that they are using drugs. Some are, some are not. What they have in common is that they are homeless—just like Joseph and Mary were homeless when Jesus was born. Someone helped them, if only a stable, only a manger, a smelly environment—but a roof—obviously good enough for the Son of God. Someone bothered—had mercy—offered what he had. Perhaps that is all God wants from us—a willing spirit to help those most in need. Too busy, too distracted, or just don’t care—we all have excuses.
The shepherds must have had their share of excuses. They were just minding their own business, when all of sudden the angel of the Lord appeared to them. Shepherds were at the bottom of society—the “nobodies”. God usually picks the nobodies to be somebody. They were given directions and the description of Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Obviously the shepherds found their way to Bethlehem; otherwise we wouldn’t put the statues of the shepherds around the Nativity scene—usually three. Tradition says there were three, who wants to argue the point after all these years of Nativity scenes? Point is that the “low-lives”, the least expected, the nobodies received a personal invitation from the angel.
Maybe they were chosen because they could identify. The shepherds knew about being poor, suffering hungry, being rejected. Perhaps for the rest of their lives they never understood why they were chosen. However, since they were open to the moment of grace, they saw a preview of heaven. We can imagine them discussing whether the vision was real or not—should they pay attention or ignore the angel. Yet, the moment they gave consent, heaven opened up to reveal a sight beyond description. A multitude of host appeared praising God. What the shepherds saw was enough to convince them to hit the road, the angel was not a fake. What vision do we need to get ourselves in gear? What sign do we want to change our life? Christmas is about new life. Just like the shepherds, today can be the start of a marvelous adventure as we search for the Child Jesus. He is usually hidden in plain sight. Jesus is present in the obnoxious traffic honkers. The Lord is in people who can no longer speak and are in nursing homes. He lives in the family members that we want to ignore. Christmas is not just a day on the calendar but more of an opportunity to experience new life. Given all our resources, consider the lives that can change if we respond to God’s invitation.
Come to see the Baby, not in the symbolic resemblance of a doll, a statue, but in the people who surround us. Help us Lord to make a better world through our acts of kindness.