Well, as fate (or good planning) would have it, Day 77 of reading through the Catechism in one year as a part of the Year of Faith recounts a familiar tale. “Jesus was born in a humble stable, into a poor family. Simple shepherds were the first witnesses to this event. In this poverty heaven’s glory was made manifest.” So, from the very beginning, Christmas has asked us to focus our attention on the poor, the overlooked, the small. Some people, of course, carry this to the extreme…

But extreme or not, you have to appreciate how the insect family in our short feature is quick to accept “Father’s invitation.” That’s another thing besides their seeming unimportance that they have in common with the shepherds who were told of the birth of Christ. In his recent book ‘Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives’ Pope Benedict XVI notes of the shepherds that “they were among the poor, the simple souls whom Jesus would bless, because to them above all is granted access to the mystery of God (cf Lk 10:21f.) They represent the poor of Israel, the poor in general: God’s first love.” But as His Holiness goes on to point out, it’s not simply the shepherd’s poverty that allowed them to receive such a special invitation. “Another element has been particularly emphasized by the monastic tradition: the shepherds’ watchfulness. Monks set out to be watchful in this world – in the first place through their nocturnal prayer, but above all inwardly, open to receiving God’s call through the signs of his presence.”

You see, there were a lot of folks in Bethlehem when Jesus was born. In fact, if we’re to believe the gospels, the local inns were overflowing with them. But none of them even noticed what was happening out in the manger. It was only those who were “watching” beforehand who got to see the Lord. Advent may have been about waiting for His coming, but Christmastime is about looking for Him in the here and now. The invitation to see him could come at any moment, we just have to keep watch for it.

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