Here is the latest column from Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, reprinted from the Southern Nebraska Register.
His name is Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. He is the savior of the world. He is the Lord of the dead and of the living, the Lord of time and history. He is the the Word of God, the eternal son of the Father, who has always existed, and who will always exist.
He is God made man. And he was born in a stable, a cave, probably, where livestock were kept. After he was born, he was lovingly dressed by his mother, and then his exhausted parents laid him in the best place they could find, a hastily cleaned feeding trough, where animals had been eating just hours before.
To be sure, a barn is an unworthy place for any woman to give birth, for any baby to be born. A trough is an inhospitable and unwelcoming crib. But this is the place where Jesus Christ, God made man was born. His parents were so poor they had no place to stay. They were alone in a strange city, apart from their families, delivering the King of Kings in a drafty, earthy, inhospitable barn.
The Lord chose this humble place for his entrance into the world. And Pope Benedict says that the birthplace of Jesus “points towards the reversal of values found in the figure of Jesus Christ and his message. From the moment of his birth, he belongs outside the realm of what is important and powerful in worldly terms.”
We, the disciples and followers of Jesus, need to remember his birth each day. We need to remember that the savior of the world chose to be born into indecency, homelessness, even temporarily. And for all his life, he remained outside the centers of power and influence, outside the realm of security and comfort.
St. John’s Gospel tells us that “he came into his own home, and his own people received him not.”
He himself told us “foxes have dens, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He came into the world outside of the city, and, later, he was crucified outside of the city.
When he was born, Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes—he was wrapped tightly, so that he would rest comfortably. And then he was laid atop a manger of stone. His birth evokes the memory of Isaac, the son of Abraham, who was bound and laid on a stone altar, before the Lord provided a lamb to be offered in his place.
From the very first moment of his birth, Christ was bound to be the sacrificial victim, the innocent lamb led to the slaughter, who would give his life for the salvation of the whole world. And he was laid in a place where animals eat. He, Jesus, is the true and living bread of life, his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink, which gives us eternal life. In the manger, Christ reveals to us that he will give himself to us as real food and real drink, true and living nourishment.
As he lay in the manger, shepherds came to adore him. In fact, they ran to adore him. They knelt before him, and gave God thanks and praise for the presence of his son in the world. They rejoiced, and worshipped, and gave glory to God in the highest. The shepherds humbled themselves to kneel before a child, hidden in a barn, and trusted that he was the Lord of the Universe.
Christ is present to us now in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Most Blessed Sacrament. When we adore him in the Holy Eucharist, exposed upon the altar, we continue to experience the joy and wonder of those shepherds. We kneel before the true food of Christ’s body, in his sacramental presence in the Eucharist. We kneel as if before the manger in Bethlehem. And we give thanks, and glory, and honor to God, who sent his son into the world, so that we could have eternal life. Praise and adoration is the only fitting response. This is why Eucharistic Adoration is so important for our spiritual lives. Praise and adoration was the first response of those who came to Bethlehem two thousand years ago, and praise and adoration must be our response as well.
God is present to each one of us, because the savior of the world came to us, in humility and poverty. He revealed to us the glory of God, the redemption of men, the eternal love of the Trinity. In adoration and worship, he calls us to set aside worldly honor, or power, or glory. The shepherds humbled themselves to kneel before a child, hidden in a barn.
When we kneel before the Holy Eucharist, Christ hidden under the appearance of bread, we can trust that he is the Lord of all things, and that he came to heal us, free us, and to give us the life of the Trinity itself forever. This kind of trust is not easy. But trust is precisely what Christ has asked of his disciples from the very moment of his birth, since the Lord of the Universe was born in a stable, outside of the small city of Bethlehem, to transform and redeem every single heart.