Gospel Reflection: God’s love revealed in poverty
By Ryan Browne
“You will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”
It is all too easy to romanticise this image. There are many depictions of the nativity that show a warm and cosy backdrop for the birth of Jesus. A beautiful space prepared for the Son of God to be welcomed into this world!
How far from the truth this is. Jesus, the Son of God, was born in a filthy, cold, and forgettable place. A stable, fit for the most lowly of animals. The second person of the Trinity is placed in a manger. A manger - a trough used to feed the animals in the stable, not a cradle! The nativity scene represents poverty in its most extreme form. And yet, God the Father desires His son to be born in this place.
Why would God choose to reveal Himself to us in this way?
Because He desires to be close to us! He desires to be close to us in our poverty. He desires to share in our hardships – so we can be transformed. God became like us on this day, so He could walk with us in the fullness of our lives. God is with us, here and now.
Our modern ways of celebrating Christmas can sometimes risk missing the whole point of today’s solemnity. We desire joy, love, happiness – and more. These are great desires for this festive season, but what about those who face hardships during this time: loneliness, sadness, or are perhaps even without any hope for the future?
This is the reality we celebrate today. God is born to us today to share in the totality of our humanity - especially to be close to the broken hearted and the suffering. God makes Himself poor, so as to share in our poverty. He does this so that we may be glorified with Him on the last day.
As Mary scoops Jesus into her arms in a loving embrace, so too God stoops down to us in Jesus and raises us up in His love and mercy. This is the meaning of today’s celebration!
Today’s great solemnity is not a commemoration of an event that happened over 2000 years ago. It is making the birth of Christ present now. God dwells with us and in us. He desires us as we are: in our poverty. Today, God is reaching down from heaven to earth. He does so by becoming like us.
So, let us ask ourselves:
Can we rid ourselves today of our pride?
Can we reach out to Him in our lowliness?
Do we dare approach that dark and humble stable in our hearts, where Jesus lies in swaddling clothes?
It is by ridding ourselves of human trappings that we meet Jesus in His poverty in the manger. He desires to enter our lives. The challenge for you and I this Christmas is: do we really want Him in ours?
Ryan Browne, from Bournemouth, England, is a seminarian studying at the Venerable English College in Rome, in his first year of theology.