Born in the City of David
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As Mary returned to Nazareth, Saint Joseph had a decision to make. Under Jewish law, he could not marry a woman who was going to have a baby. So Joseph decided to break his engagement with Mary quietly. But one night an angel came to him in a dream.
Joseph, son of David, have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived this child. She is to have a son, and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. (Mt 1:20-21)
Joseph was overjoyed that he would not have to break his engagement with Mary. He was even happier that the long-awaited Messiah, God's own Son, would be born into his family. The two were married, and settled down in Joseph's house in Nazareth.
The quiet life of the couple was disrupted by news that the Roman Emperor wished to take a census of the entire empire. This meant that Joseph and Mary would have to journey to Bethlehem, the town from which Joseph's family came. There Jesus was born, fulfilling the prophecy of Micah that the Savior would come from Bethlehem. (Micah 5:1-4).
We have heard the Christmas story so often that there is no need to retell it again. But, knowing a story too well can cause us to take it for granted. We are so used used to the fact that God became one of us that we forget what a startling thing it is. Just think! The same God who created the blazing sun, who shaped the towering mountain, who looks upon the ocean as we might look upon a fish tank: this God came down from Heaven to share our life. This God of infinite beauty and power was born in a dark, smelly stable. Only his infinite love for us can explain God's desire to do this.
To see what it was like for God to become man, let us use our imaginations a bit. Imagine that you had to become some stupid, ugly creature while keeping your human intelligence-a snail, for example. Then suppose you had to teach the other snails about the world of humans: all the things we can do and the way we live. The catch is, you cannot speak "people talk" but only "snail talk", which does not have words for all the wonderful things people know about.
In a way, this is how it was for Jesus. He left behind his divine beauty and strength to take on a human body and soul with all its limitations. He had to teach us about the Kingdom of Heaven, in a way we could understand.
Think about those snails again. They have never seen an airplane or tasted a chocolate chip cookie. Chances are they would not believe what you told them about these things. They think the snail world is the only world. Besides, you are a snail just like them. Who do your think you are, claiming to be a human coming from this world of man? You can see that you would have to care about those snails a great deal if you were to stay and keep trying to teach them. Jesus loved us a great deal. That is why he came to live with us.
There is more. Because God has honored the human race by becoming one of us, we now have a greatness we did not have before. Our eyes, ears, hands, feet, and souls are greater gifts of God than ever before, now that he has had them too. Our sorrows and our joys have more dignity because Jesus experienced human joys and sorrows as well. Everyday things, such as the cry of a baby, a game we attend, or a family dinner, have special meaning because the Son of God has shared them. Because God has become closer to us, we are now closer to God.
In obedience to Jewish law, Mary and Joseph took the Infant Jesus to the Temple to present him to the Lord. This was the rule for all firstborn sons. There an old man named Simeon was filled with joy. God had once promised that he would see the savior before he died. The Holy Spirit let Simeon know that the baby carried by Mary and Joseph was that Savior. He took the child in his arms and praised God. Simeon predicted that Jesus would bring God's grace to all men, not only the Jews, when he called Jesus "a light to reveal you to the Gentiles." - he also warned Mary that one day, she would suffer with Jesus: "Your own heart shall be pierced by a sword.
Jesus was to have enemies very early in his earthly life. When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem asking direction to the house of the "newborn king of the Jews," King Herod was enraged. Nobody was to take his place as king of the Jews, whatever the prophecies said! His only thought was to destroy this new king. Herod tricked to trick the Magi into helping him, but an angel warned the Magi not to trust Herod. Then this evil ruler ordered that all baby boys in Bethlehem were to be killed.
By the time the order was carried out the Holy Family was well on its way to safety in Egypt because an angel had warned Joseph in a dream. They stayed there until Herod died and God told them they could return to Nazareth. Jesus grew up like any other boy of his time. Everyone thought Joseph was Jesus' real father; they did not know that he was just his foster (putative) father. No one but Mary and Joseph knew that God-made-man walked among them
Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534
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