What was it like when you were born? I would bet that your parents remember like it was yesterday. I would also bet that it ranks among the most important moments of their lives.
My wife, Erin, and I have four children: Madeleine (11), Noah (9), Aiden (6), and Liam (3). It was a VERY big deal when each of these kids was born. From announcing the pregnancies, to shopping for clothes, to picking the names, to getting their rooms ready, to prenatal visits, to heading to the hospital when it was time for them to be born, a great sense of joy accompanied all of it. After the births, people visited, sent cards, and congratulated us on social media. It was not difficult to be mindful of how special all of this was supposed to be.
And yet, as celebratory as the atmosphere was for us, it was nothing compared to what helped prepare for and greet the arrival of Jesus, the Christ. Think about it. How many other births do you know were anticipated by an entire testament of the bible? How many were foretold by an angel? How many caused Magi, astrologers from the east with no known faith, to travel a great distance, offer gifts, and pay homage? I can’t think of any…other than one. His birth was a different kind of special.
One thing we can glean from this week’s readings is how truly blessed one might be to be witness to (or even play a part in!) the life of Jesus. In the first reading, Isaiah is telling Jerusalem (God’s chosen people) to ‘Rise up in splendor…your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines on you’. The Psalmist also points out, though, that ‘Nations shall walk by your light’. It’s a message of hope for both the Jews and the Gentiles (non-Jews)! This will be a Messiah for ALL people. In the Responsorial Psalm, the Psalmist is telling the Lord how revered He will be when He comes, but is also telling the people of that King how fair and just life will be when He is crowned. He will ‘govern with justice’. There will be ‘profound peace, till the moon be no more’. That sounds wonderful! Then we have Paul, the author of our second reading, from his letter to the Ephesians. Paul never knew Jesus, and yet was given the ‘stewardship of God’s grace’, a caretaker of the gift of God’s grace in this world. Paul then goes on to echo the first reading, that Gentiles were ‘coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Again, this is message for Jews and for you and me! What we can take from this is that even though we weren’t there two-thousand years ago, our place in God’s family is secure and important. Living in Christ is special.
The Gospel tells of the significant, yet very different responses to the birth of Jesus by both Herod and the Magi. Both Herod and the Magi realize the importance of the coming of the Messiah. The Magi respond by bringing Jesus gifts and adoring Him. Herod responds in fear. Herod was a ruthless king, who went by the title “King of the Jews”. The arrival of the Messiah would mean that the Jews would not likely respond to Herod’s authority any longer, and Herod knew it. Sadly, we find out later in Matthew’s Gospel just how far Herod was willing to go to find and kill Jesus.
Fortunately, though, the Magi are warned in a dream not to return to Herod and ‘departed for their country by another way’.
What does all of this mean for us? I think, this: We are blessed beyond measure to know and love Jesus. He is a fair and just King who is worthy of our adoration and praise. O Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!