The Feast of the Incarnation
Angels we have heard on high…
I, like one of the shepherds, am pondering the message of the angel who said that the newborn King could be found “wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:12) The message prompts me to ask, “Who in the heck is this God who created us? Why di
d he create life that starts with the most adorable immature version of the species in the form of a helpless baby or a fuzzy fledgling or wobbly foal? And on top of all that, why in the world would this God choose to come to us as one of these precious gurgling little ones?” Reflecting on such a Creator I imagine that God must be tender, must love tenderly, and must love vulnerability. God must have a soft maternal side that nurtures, cuddles, and delights over the newborn. Jesus modeled this affection when he told the disciples, “Let the little children come unto me.” (Matt 9:14)
Sweetly singing o’er the plains….
More than that, I think God is enamored with and delights in creation because God chose to not only create the world but to become one of us. Additionally God made and loves all types of creatures; Jesus told us that God cares even for the little sparrow. (Matt 10:29) Imagine God creating flying creatures in every size, shape, and color. Some birds are wildly exotic and others have songs that pierce the heart. What kind of God creates birds or zebras or giraffes for that matter? Not only do giraffe species vary in spot pattern but grow different numbers of bony-head-bumps. It sounds to me like God was having a great deal of joy and delight when creating the creatures of the earth.
And the mountains in reply…
Further, God has made the birthday of Christ, the feast of the Incarnation, a time of peace and joy, a time of wonder and delight for children, a time of feasting and joy for all. Driving down the dark country roads in rural Virginia it hit me, God is playful. I’ll bet God thinks these crazy lights, the blow up figures, and the projected sparkles on the houses are just so much fun. Some people may get carried away, but that’s okay, because this is a worldwide birthday party on steroids and God is enjoying it.
Echoing their joyous strains….
So what does this mean to us? I suppose it depends on who you are. Who were the shepherds who listened to the angel’s message? Some say that the shepherds around Bethlehem were the poorest of the poor, hired to watch the sheep, probably women and children. I wonder if they were the only one’s chosen to hear the angel’s message or if they were simply more receptive to the message of salvation arriving in the guise of a small infant. If the angel arrived in the twenty first century, to whom would the message be addressed or more precisely, who would be most likely to respond? Can we, like the shepherds lose ourselves just for the moment, trudge through the starry night to the stable, shaking off the numbness of pain and fatigue, to gaze upon this innocent babe embodying the good news of our salvation? The miracle of the Incarnation reminds us that no matter how dark it looks outside, no matter how startling the messenger or unlikely the appearance of God’s presence, Jesus is Lord of the dead and the living, God has pitched his tent among us, and we have been forever changed and transformed by this small child. Nothing will ever be the same again. Gazing upon the love of God vulnerable in the arms of Mary, perhaps we can sing full throated with the angels, “Gloria in excelsis Deo! Gloria in excelsis Deo!”
What comes to mind when you imagine yourself on the hillside listening to the angel’s announcement?
Who are the modern day shepherds in your life? What makes them so receptive to the message of the angel?
Are you willing to walk with the shepherds to the manger in search of the newborn King?
Annie McEntee, OblSB
St. Benedict Monastery
 Patella, Michael, O.S.B. New Collegeville Bible Commentary.The Gospel According to Luke. Edited by Daniel Durken, O.S.B. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2009. 222.
Horse Foal Public Domain Pictures http://publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=36866&picture=cute-baby-foal&large=1 last accessed 12/17/16.
Painted Bunting https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Painted_Bunting/id last accessed 12/17/16.
Snowman Public Domain Images http://www.photos-public-domain.com/2010/12/03/snowman-white-christmas-lights/ last accessed 12/17/16.