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The Awaited Savior
The Birth of Jesus
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke narrate the birth of Jesus. Both give importance to the fact that Mary, being betrothed to Joseph, became pregnant while remaining virgin, that is, without having been touched by man.
Matthew is interested in showing that Jesus was a descendant of David. After a summary of the birth event Matthew points out that the virginal birth of Jesus is the fulfillment of a messianic prophecy. Then Matthew gives a detailed description of the visit of the Magi, followed by the flight to Egypt.
"This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a man of honor and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.' Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name that means 'God-is-with-us'. When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son, and he named him Jesus"
Luke on the other hand before coming to the narration of the birth, devotes one chapter to the anteceding events, connected with the birth of John the Baptist and the Annunciation of the Angel to Mary.
"Now at this time Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census - the first - took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered. So Joseph set out from the town of Nazareth in Galilee and traveled up to Judaea, to the town of David called Bethlehem, since he was of David's House and line, in order to be registered together with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to a son, her first-born. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them at the inn. In the countryside close by there were shepherds who lived in the fields and took it in turns to watch their flocks during the night. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone round them. They were terrified, but the angel said, 'Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. And here is a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.' And suddenly with the angel there was a great thong of the heavenly host, praising God and singing:
'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who enjoy his favor'.
Now when the angels had gone from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us'. So they hurried away and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw the child they repeated what they had been told about him, and everyone who heard it was astonished at what the shepherds had to say. As for Mary, she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds went back glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen; it was exactly as they had been told".
Christ is born. A Child is given to mankind. Christmas is the Feast of children. God becomes a baby and His smile reveals God's message to little children. Today in many homes a "crib" is put up. Small figures of sheep and shepherds. Mountains covered with snow. Little streams of flowing water. The stable with an ox and a donkey. The angel, the star. Joseph and Mary and between them a smiling Child lying in a manger. All is meant to make little children understand that God is born and has become like them. Small, helpless, poor, unable to speak, but smiling and inviting everyone to come closer to Him. Children gather around the crib and sing "carols" or Christmas songs, composed in the course of many centuries to express in a characteristic style Christmas joy. Grown-ups also join in the singing. Jesus invites everybody to become like little children.
"I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven".
Even old people are invited to emulate the innocence and simplicity of little children. Santa Claus with his white hair and beard becomes children's best friend as he arrives with a sack full of toys. In some countries children look forward to the coming of three kings, Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar on the night of January 6th and full of joy wake up in the morning to find a specially prepared room all full of toys.
The Christmas Tree with sweets, lights and shining stars hanging on its branches adds to the homely Christmas atmosphere, to create awareness of the historical event commemorated today. God's mercy appeared in the form of a Child and came to dwell among us.
Poverty and Virginity
Jesus as a descendant of David was of royal blood. But this fact remained in obscurity. What at once becomes striking is that Jesus is the son of a poor young virgin, now spoused to Joseph, the carpenter, for which reason Jesus became known as the son of the carpenter, the Nazarene, not the best titles to make an impression on the Jewish nation, or on the world. His birth at Bethlehem, away from home, in a stable, lacking even the little comforts of an ordinary poor family, indicates a clear divine option for the poor. A Virgin-Mother and the conditions of a working man were God's deliberate choice when He decided to become present among men. These will remain in the life of Jesus the characteristics of His approach to solve human problems. This approach known as Redemption consists in liberating others by freely accepting their enslaved condition. It would be a pity to miss this central message of Christmas in the midst of the noise and glamour of worldly enjoyments that have nothing to do with genuine Christmas happiness.