Fr. Leo Pabayo .
THE Savior is born and the first ones who get the good news are shepherds. What was it in the shepherds that made them so privileged to be the first to hear the good news? Perhaps it was their closeness to nature. They behold the stars every night as they watch their flock of sheep and this must make them wonder about the vastness of the universe and about God who made it.
There might be a lesson here for us in the city, where the rhythm of life robs us of the opportunity to take time out to contemplate God in nature. There is reason to believe that hasty industrialization and commercialization have distanced us from God. God is still present to us in this urban milieu. But the many unnecessary preoccupations of city life tend to draw us away from God.
The shepherds were close to God in their natural environment. Not only that, as shepherds they were also closely in touch with the rites of their religion. They provided the sheep that were offered as sacrificial offerings in these communal religious rites.
The sheep is known for its meekness and docility. These characteristics must have endeared them to the shepherds. Such characteristics must have also rubbed on the shepherds as to make them also sheep like in relating with others.
The closeness of the shepherds to nature must have made them more open to divine manifestations from the angels. It made them ready for good news from God. And so it was to them that the angels announced the birth of the Christ.
Sheep and shepherds have a significant place in the history of salvation. David, the great king of the chosen people was a shepherd. Christ is spoken of as the Good Shepherd. Those whom he calls to serve his people are called shepherds or “pastors.” Their job is to “pasture the flock” on matters pertaining to the spiritual life.
One very important lesson, probably the most important lesson that God wanted to communicate to us in the persons of Mary and Joseph and the circumstances of the Savior’s birth is the lesson of nonattachment to worldly goods, of obedience to the Father and of humility.
Mary and Joseph are refused lodging in spite of the fact that Mary was obviously in a very advanced stage of pregnancy. Joseph might have asked for reconsideration. But there is no endless pleading. The lesson we can learn from here is that one can do with little if he puts his mind to it. Human ingenuity does not really need that much. Our adaptability is greater than we think. Our problems in life are often just in the mind. Some women get so panicky about not having enough to raise a child on or of the shame of raising one outside of marriage that they resort to abortion and kill not only a new human life given to them by God but also the meaning and joy of their life as women.
Mary and Joseph are faced with the prospect of bringing a child into this world in a stable of animals. They did not worry over the prospect of explaining to the Christ child why he is being teased by his playmates for being born among animals. Mary and Joseph were in perfect control of the situation. They were very positive about the whole situation. They believed that whatever was happening in such a situation was part of divine providence, the hand of the Father was on it.
Joseph must have been thinking already that the stable of animals might need some cleaning up. He would gather enough clean hay and make a bed out of it and prepare the manger where the child would be placed after being born. Let the animals stay out for a while to give place for the child to be born.
St. Joseph must have carefully considered this in making the stable of animals a worthy place for Mary to give birth to the Christ child. St. Joseph had tried his best to find a good lodging for Mary. But perhaps the best indicated by his angel turned out not to be in any of the inns. Having been given no place in the inns he is now compelled to make the best of it in another way which was providential in God the Father’s plan for our salvation.
Little did we and the others know that the stable and the manger would become more beautiful in the eyes of God and man more than any other dwelling because the Son of God, the Savior of the world was born there.
This humble stable and manger will be reconstructed in infinite number of forms and shapes and will have a place of honor in countless number of homes, churches and buildings and through the ages because this is where the Father chose that His Only begotten Son from all eternity would be born as a human person to bring the message of salvation for us all but most especially to the poor.