Today we celebrate what we have been waiting for in ‘joyful hope’ for so many weeks now! Today we celebrate that day when the eternal Word of God became one of us and one with us, finding a home in our homes and in our hearts. There is no greater Christmas gift than the gift we celebrate today. There is no greater Christmas gift giving than the gift giving we celebrate today.
The gospel accounts of what happened on the first Christmas are accounts of marvelous greatness. There is a heavenly choir of angels praising God and announcing wonderfully good news to the needy and the waiting world. The message of the angels is passed on to men working in the night fields of Bethlehem, inviting them to see for themselves that the long-awaited Messiah has been born in the royal city of King David. The night sky is illuminated with the brightness of Divine Glory. Such signs of greatness are signs that this Gift of God is so very special and extraordinary. It is not surprising that the angels have to give an assurance that there is nothing to fear and that these signs are signs of really good news.
There are, however, other signs of the greatness of this night, the humble and simple events that simply give way to reverent wonder. The birthplace is an animal’s loft, not a well-equipped room in a traveler’s inn. The crib is a manger, not a fancy cradle. The new- born infant is not clothed in richly crafted garments but is wrapped in swaddling clothes. Attending visitors are shepherds rushing in from their fields, not courtiers ready to provide comfortable assistance.
Today’s Christmas story is, therefore, a story of true greatness that is at one and the same time divinely magnificent and humanly simple. It is a story that is at one and the same time superbly heavenly and yet humbly earthly. It is a story of what is divine showing itself in what is human. It is the story of the birth of God made Man.
But what we read in this Christmas story is not just an account of an event that took place more than twenty centuries ago. It presents us today with the challenge to find true greatness not in worldly glory but in humble simplicity. Of course we will mark this day with all of our traditional expressions of reverent and joyful celebration. And rightly so! This is a day of great rejoicing! But let us always keep in our minds and in our hearts the lesson that the Christmas Infant will teach us by the life he begins to live today, that real greatness is found in humble simplicity and that the lowly are the ones who are really exalted in God’s eyes.