As many of you know, our pilgrimage this past summer to the Holy Land was a graced experience. Like many pilgrims before us, we experienced incredible sites, stood on the ground of profound events and walked the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, remembering the last journey of Jesus. But for me the place that deepened my faith the most was the quiet visit to the Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem. There were no grand churches there. No gift shops or guides. There were rolling fields and a cave marked with a star. We celebrated Mass in a primitive structure seated on rocks and simple wooden benches.
I was moved to look upon the land and wonder about the shepherds. Though they were considered of the lowest status of their time, it was to the shepherds the angel appeared and told them to go to a child, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. “So, they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph and the infant lying in a manger… and they went away praising God for what the angel had told them, that the child was the long waited for savior, the Messiah, the Lord.”
As I gathered with a group of moms reading our Bibles, in a faith sharing group recently, I was reflecting on God sending a savior, his Son, to redeem us, to forgive humanity, to promise us eternal life. How could this event of such significance have begun in this absolutely remote place? How could this story have survived throughout centuries?
At that time in those barren fields in Bethlehem there would be no way to effectively communicate this news to the nearest town, let alone around the world! There was no printed word for centuries, no mass communication, no university educated tellers of this story. How is it that I am sitting here in the lower level of our church with these sweet women in 2023, and we are contemplating this story?
This Christmas I hope you will share my awe of that small cave, in that remote place, where the child Jesus was born. It is a wonder that generations have continually passed down the truth of that story of the first Christmas. God so loved us to send his very son so we would know Emmanuel, that God is with us.
I wish you always will have a heart of hope knowing God can do great things, impossible things. God chose to come to us in the most tender, humble and real way. We must continue to be tellers of the story of how God wanted to be close to us, so we know how loved we are!
Christmas blessings to each of you. May you ponder, as Mary did, all these things in your heart.