December 24, 2005 - Year B - Christmas Eve

Luke 2:1-14, (15-20)

2  1 At that time the emperor issued a decree for a census of the whole empire to be taken. This first census was taken while Quirinus was governor of Syria. Everyone had to be registered in his own town.

So everyone set out for his own city; Joseph too set out from Nazareth of Galilee. As he belonged to the family of David, being a descendant of his, he went to Judea to David’s town of Bethlehem to be registered with Mary, his wife, who was with child.

They were in Bethlehem when the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger, because there was no place for them in the living room.

 8 There were shepherds camping in the countryside, taking turns to watch over their flocks by night.Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to them, with the Glory of the Lord shining around them.

As they were terrified, 10 the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid; I am here to give you good news, great joy for all the peo­ple. 11Today a Savior has been born to you in David’s town; he is the Messiah and the Lord. 12 Let this be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly the angel was surrounded by many more heavenly spirits, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest; peace on earth for God is blessing humankind.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone back to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go as far as Bethlehem and see what the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came hurriedly and found Mary and Joseph with the baby lying in the manger. 17 On seeing this they related what they had been told about the child, 18 and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds.

19 As for Mary, she treasured all these messages and continually pondered over them.

20 The shepherds then returned giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the angels had told them.

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Notes from [The Community Christian Bible

• 2.The emperor issued a decree. The Jews formed a small nation under the rule of the Roman empire, which included diverse peoples. The precision given by Luke presents a difficulty because Quirinus was appointed governor of Syria in the year 6 A.C. and Jesus was twelve at that time. Several explanations have been built, but very possibly Luke used a mistaken chronology in that place like in Acts 5:36. Luke is infallible as a witness of salvation, not as an historian.

Because of the census, Joseph and Mary had to leave their Nazareth home at the time the child was to be born. Joseph, a descendant of David, must have had relatives in Bethlehem, the city of David and of his family. Jesus may have been born in the house of one of those relatives.

The chalk hill on which the village of Bethlehem was built had many natural caves used as dwelling places by the not so rich. The cave where Jesus was born consisted of two rooms separated by a rock formation. The innermost room was probably used as a shed and stable. Since there was not enough room or privacy in the common room, Joseph and Mary settled in the area where the animals were kept.

Thus, it was foreseen by the Father that Jesus would be educated in a real home, where neither work nor bread would be lacking. In his birth, however, as in his death, Jesus would resemble the most abandoned.

She gave birth to her firstborn (v. 7). This term was used then to designate an only son, underscoring that this first son was consecrated to God (Ex 13:1). See also Rom 8:29; Col 1:15.

The liturgy of Christmas sings: “Happy mother of God! Today you gave birth to the Savior of all times, and giving birth, you remained a virgin.” In fact God was not too great for Mary: “From on high he sees the proud, but he becomes weak with the humble.”

• 8. With the necessary stages in the religious formation of humankind being over, God sent his Son on earth to introduce us to true religion. Now the angel proclaims peace and graciousness to humankind. See how much God loves us! Let yourselves be caught up in his love! Why continue to fear? Have you not understood that God became a child and that from now on he will be among us as a silent and defenseless child?

Let this be a sign to you (v. 12). They will recognize God who became poor for us in order to communicate his treasures to us.

They returned giving glory to God (v. 20). While the world was in darkness, some shepherds saw God. Why were they called to the manger? God delights in revealing himself to the poor, and Mary and Joseph had the joy to share with them a part of their secret.

With the birth of Jesus a new age begins (the final age as the apostles will say) in which, on one hand, people hope for the salvation of the world, and on the other they already enjoy this salvation. The shepherds are models for those dedicated to contemplation. Following them, the Church will never be totally involved in works of mercy or human development, but instead, with its truest spirit, will continue to look upon Christ present in its midst, giving thanks and rejoicing in God.

 19. Mary treasured all these messages (v. 19), because every event of her life was for her the way God revealed his plans to her, and all the more so now that she was living with Jesus. She wondered, marveled but was not confused, because her faith was beyond wavering. However, she too had to discover the ways of salvation slowly and painfully. She pondered on these things until the time of the Resurrection and Pentecost when all the words and deeds of Jesus became clear.

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Comments by Wesley

1. Given the cultural accumulation of what is presently deemed good, this can be seen as a story of each of us. We set out for our own city, our own desire, our own niche in the options society has for us. No matter what the glory of our past heritage we are seeking to be a part of we have to deal with the limitations of the present time. How caught in the communal sin of the day are you? Do you just go along waiting for GOD to bring something good out of things? Do you subvert of reigning paradigm?

2. Joseph goes along with the flow. The shepherd break ranks with their position. They leave their job when an intriguing vision breaks upon them. They, the lowest of the low, get uppity and, on the basis of their experience, their seeing a next glimpse of the vision coming to pass, they go around and tell what they know to all those above them.

This would be astonishing, again, to have the poor get their voice of vision going again. May they and we be open to receiving a vision of "peace on earth" and going about telling it.

3. And Mary pondered. And later she will try to corral Jesus. And later she will be a witness to his death. And later some will claim her adoption (assumption) into heaven. Pondering weak and weary or pondering to some larger picture? What sort of pondering are you doing these days? Is your pondering leading you to going along or subversion?

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