1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. 2. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. 4. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, 7, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8. Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. 9. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. 10. The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. 12. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." 13. And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: 14 "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
Nazareth was a small village, which means “house of bread” and was the ancestral home of David. Luke states that there was no room for Jesus in the inn so he was born in a stable and wrapped in swaddling clothes and placed in a manger. While this may provide worthy material for our reflection on our need to provide hospitality for Jesus in the person of the disadvantaged of our world, this is not what Luke is telling his community.
Jesus was born outside the city, far from the center of the city, far from the important and powerful people. He is born, as he will die. He is among the ritually unclean, the rejected, the week and the suspect. At the time of his birth, except for the homage given by the shepherds, Jesus was largely unnoticed. Shepherds, who were poor, commonly regarded as thieves and grouped together with tax collectors and prostitutes are recorded as rejoicing in Jesus’ birth. We note also that David, the greatest King of the Jews, was a shepherd.
Today we recognize that Jesus, the Son of God was in that stable and made his bed in a manger. We decorate our homes and churches with symbols that remind us of that reality.
1. Do you know what was going on in the world when you were born?
2. The birth of Jesus seems to impact the heavens, but not the town of Bethlehem. Why?
3. Why would Luke want his readers to know the non-glamorous details of Jesus birth?
4. If God planned that Jesus’ birth would take place today, where do you think you would find Mary and the babe?
5. When you read this passage, what is it that stands out to you?
· What is God saying to you about the kind of relationship God desires to have with you in this reading?
Reflection questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM
They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF