As we enter the Christmas season, it is helpful to contemplate the figures who were there at the first Christmas and consider how they give us an example today. First, surrounding Jesus, are the holiest ones, Mary and the angels. As Mary received Jesus in her womb with humility and complete openness to God’s will, we are called to receive Jesus in the Eucharist with such humble courage and prayerful service and, with her intercession, bring His love to the world. And, with the angels, we announce the Gospel by word, deed, prayer and sacrifice. The word “angel” comes from the Latin angelus or Greek aggelos, which mean “messenger.” As Jesus says, we are the light of the world and a city on a hill showing forth His kingdom. See Matt. 5:14-16.
Alongside is St. Joseph, last before Jesus in the Davidic line of kings. He never wore the crown, but he lived out the virtues of great leaders and fathers, prayerfulness, courage, purity and justice. Like him, we seek, not the glory of this world, but the praise of Jesus, Mary and the angels, acting in a fashion worthy of a heavenly crown. Likewise, in humble dedication are the shepherds, who were looked down upon by society, but privileged by God as the first to receive the Gospel. Called in the midst of daily work, they brought their labor to Jesus in the form of sheep, a model for us to see Jesus in our daily labor, joyfully accepting the duties we have been given. Coming later at Epiphany are the magi, who were not among the Chosen People, but journeyed with a mysterious revelation from heaven that they did not fully understand. We are also called to journey toward heaven along paths that we often do not comprehend, but trusting that fixed guidance of truth from God.
Even the animals in that stable are important, especially the donkey and the ox. Among other things, they represent attentiveness to God’s calling, fulfilling the words of Isaiah, “An ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people have not understood.” Is. 1:3. The world may ignore the word of God and the Word made man, but here nature honors her Creator. In imitating their humble adoration, and in seeking the virtues of those people at that first Nativity, we welcome Jesus, the Son of God who, as the poet Chesterton put it, became homeless that we all may find our final home.