There is something compelling in the miracle of each birth; for despite the circumstances of a child’s coming into the world – be it within a committed, stable relationship or born to a single mother, be it a result of a planned or unplanned pregnancy, be it a birth into wealth or poverty – the cry of a new born child seems to bring out the best in us.
Each child enters our world innocent and totally dependent and yet has the power to call forth from us not only joy, but to enkindle within us our protective nature and marshal our nurturing capacity.
Powerless as they are, each little child nevertheless empowers us to be our best selves and to live from our deepest sense of love and self-sacrifice.
It is no less true for the birth of Jesus and the responses that he evokes in others particularly Mary and Joseph.
As these days of Advent slip by now, the texts of each liturgy and the words of our scriptures are preparing us for the birth of Jesus. And like all births, his too marks the entry of an innocent and dependent child into the world and through the scriptures we witness to the love and self-sacrifice that surrounds him both before and from the moment of his birth.
Today we read especially of Joseph’s generosity. From the foundation of a humble and open heart, God can do much. This is certainly true of Joseph, who despite his initial reservations and even fear, albeit tempered by a deep compassion, is still open and listening to God’s voice. Once he knows God’s will he, like Mary before him, immediately aligns his life, his energies and his whole future with God’s will in order to serve God’s desires for our world.
And what are they?
Simply, everything that enables us to be fully human and to enter into a full relationship with God. We might say that in the incarnation of Jesus, God entered fully into the reality of our lives and we came to know clearly and unmistakably the power of God’s tender mercy and loving kindness.
And the birth of Jesus marks the beginning of a great moment of revelation and new life for the world. Jesus is the heart of God in our world. Through him we not only know God for who God really is, but we come to know ourselves – for the incarnation teaches us our origins and our final end – that is, union with God.
So we might rightly say he is our Emmanuel ‘God with us’?
This is good news. News meant to be shared with the whole world. Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium has challenged us with his stirring words not only about being joyful in our proclamation of Jesus (who is the ‘good news’ for our world), but to link this proclamation to our relationship to society and to our capacity and desire to enter into the lives of people as servants and disciples of Jesus. "We want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world." (paragraph No. 269)
The birth of Jesus is not just an event for us who believe, it is a moment for the whole world. Mary and Joseph first presented him to the world and we are now charged with continuing this mission and to spread the message of his love. Let us be truly joyful as we celebrate once more his coming amongst us and let us be faithful witnesses to his message for the world.
Fr. Denis Travers, C.P., is a member of Holy Spirit Province, Australia. He currently serves on the General Council and is stationed in Rome.