The Jesuit Father Flavien Zolabi introduces us to meditation with the texts of the night of the Nativity of the Lord.
Readings: Is 9.1-3.5-6; Titus 2.11-14; Luke 2,1-14
Dear brothers and sisters, here we are at the end of our Advent season, the time of waiting. Tonight we celebrate the fulfillment of God’s great promise that has nurtured our faith for the past four weeks.
Last night a child was born to us. He is our Lord, our Saviour, whom God had announced to us through the mouth of his prophets, as we had to meditate on him at length throughout this season of Advent. But the story of this birth told to us by the Evangelist Luke is shot through from start to finish by a sense of great poverty, which would contrast with the radiant image that one could easily have of this God-Savior.
Indeed, the birth of Jesus, Son of God and our Savior takes place in the context of a census, Saint Luke tells us. The Emperor Augustus, to establish his political and financial power, and to satisfy his madness of grandeur and his thirst for admiration, ordered the census of the whole earth. And it was to obey this command that Mary and Joseph left Nazareth to go to the small town of Bethlehem where Jesus, the Savior of the world, the King of the Universe, was born in extreme poverty. Saint Luke reveals that not having found a place for them in the common room, “Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, swaddled him and laid him in a manger“. This place which welcomes the child-God, one might say, is noticeably unworthy of its rank. Then, finding themselves far from their city of Nazareth, the young parents cannot share their joy at the birth of their child with their relatives and friends, as is customary, and as was the case for John the Baptist the precursor. It is rather a particular public which rejoices in the birth of Jesus.
Beside him, in the nativity scene, as we are used to representing it to ourselves, are the animals, the natural occupants of the place. They are the first witnesses of the happy event. Also, the evangelist Luke reveals to us that the first announcement of this birth is made to the shepherds. We know well that at that time the shepherds belonged to one of the despised social categories; they were considered uneducated. According to the account of Saint Luke, on that night of Jesus’ birth, these shepherds were there at their place of work watching over and guarding their flocks. And, it is to them that the good news of the Savior’s birth is announced first. It is not to the chief priests and elders, nor to the civil authorities; but to these poor people.
Finally, the birth of Jesus the Savior is presented to these shepherds as good news, a great joy for all the people. But, the sign given to them to recognize the Savior is disconcerting. The angel said to them:you will find a newborn swaddled and lying in a manger“. It is in fact the sign of poverty, of material discomfort. And this Savior who came into the world in all poverty will thus spend his entire earthly life in total detachment until the supreme sacrifice of his own life on the cross. Let us ask him to grant us this grace of simplicity, and to free us from the lust for power and wealth. Amen.
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Meditation on the night of the Nativity: “Today a Savior is born to you” – Vatican News
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