If we were to journey back almost 2000 years to the city of David, to the small town of Bethlehem on the eve of the first Christmas, we would find a town busier than usual, because many had come to be enrolled for the census of Caesar Augustus.
Somewhere in that town we would find an inn, and most probably a very happy innkeeper, due to the fact he was entertaining a great many more customers than usual.
Across the road from this inn we might find a house in which a family was preparing for their evening meal, and a young boy playing with his friends as the night descended.
When his friends had gone home, perhaps he lingered outside to watch them dwindle off into the night. Just as he was turning to the sound of his mother’s call, beckoning him in for dinner, the sound of clopping hoofs may have stopped him.
He might have turned to see the lonely figure of a man coming along the road, leading a donkey behind him. Sitting on the donkey he would have seen a beautiful woman, the man’s wife, and he would have probably noticed that she was pregnant. His young eyes may have followed them as they made their way to the inn, the inn which was full, and he may have watched as they left – finding that there was no room – to see which way they went.
That night, as he lay in his bed, he may have wondered where they had gone, and if they had found a roof to offer them shelter for the night. One wonders if perhaps he even prayed to God that they might find a safe place.
They had in fact found a place to shelter, but not of the kind in which he now lay. The roof which stretched over their head was one of stone, the stone of a cave used by shepherds as a stable. When the time came, and the babe was born, He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, where at least the straw might keep Him warm.
He was the king of Heaven and Earth, but He received no royal welcome, at least not of an earthly kind, and He lay silently in that cave, while Bethlehem slept. The people of that town did not come to visit their King, as they did not expect to find God lying in a cow’s food trough, but there He was, silently waiting while the angels sung His praises out in the fields to humble shepherds.
As Fulton Sheen writes in his Life of Christ, “No worldly mind would ever have suspected that He Who could make the sun warm the earth would one day have need of an ox and an ass to warm Him with their breath…that the feet which trod the everlasting hills would one day be too weak to walk; that the Eternal Word would be dumb; that Omnipotence would be wrapped in swaddling-clothes; that Salvation would lie in a manger that the bird which built the nest would be hatched therein – no one would ever suspect that God coming to this earth would ever be so helpless. And that is precisely why so many miss Him. Divinity is always where one least expects to find it.”
Almost 2000 years later, in your very own city or town, a young boy will wake up on Christmas morning and run down in a fit of excitement to see what has been left in his stocking by Santa Claus.
He will eat a delicious Christmas dinner with his family – as quickly as he can mind you – so that he can rush off to play with the multitude of new and exciting toys he has received, and he will hang his head and complain when it is time to go to bed, wishing the day could drag on for just a little longer. However when that drooping head hits the pillow he will drift off fast to sleep, tired out after one of the most exciting days of the year.
Yet all the while, from the crack of dawn to the fading dusk, perhaps less than a few blocks away in the local Catholic Church, God was hidden in the tabernacle under the appearance of a small white host of bread, silently waiting for him, but he did not come.
For just like that boy almost 2000 years ago in Bethlehem (which means House of Bread), did not expect to find God where the cattle’s food was laid, neither will this boy today expect to find Him in a piece of bread, for no one has told him the Good News that “this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord” and pointed him to the place He can be found.
But for those of us who do know, we must become the light which points people to the place where the Saviour can be found, just as the star once hung over the place where He was born.