It is a week after Christmas and we turn the page on a new calendar year. The reading invite us to re-collect the blessings of the past week, as we look forward to a new year.
In them the shepherds act upon the message they receive from the angel and go to find Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. In their visit to the manger, the shepherds find things just as the angel had said. The shepherds’ visit, therefore, is a moment of fulfillment, manifestation, and the beginning of the salvation we receive through Christ.
In the context of today’s Solemnity, this reading also helps us focus on Mary as the Mother of God. Mary’s faithfulness to God is evident in all three of these things. Her reflection upon the events in her life indicates that she was a person of prayer. This prayer made possible her obedience to God and God’s will, even if the outcome was not clear. Finally, her faithfulness to a community of faith grounded her relationship with God and enabled her to participate in God’s plan of salvation.
Because of Mary’s faithfulness to God, she was able to receive the gift of God’s Son and accept her role in God’s plan for salvation. By doing so, she models for us the path of discipleship and is also called Mother of the Church.
The songs we sing and the cards we write extol the babe of Bethlehem as Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is so with us that after Gabriel’s visit to the Virgin of Nazareth, the Divine Word can never again be divided from our humanity. Indeed, Although the Gregorian calendar established January 1 as New Year’s Day as far back as 1582, in England it was not until 1752 that it replaced March 25 as the beginning of the new year. March 25, of course, is when the church celebrates the feast of the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear the Christ child.
Today we remember not simply who this baby is around whose manger we gathered just a few short days ago, but more importantly, who he is. “…you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.
We are here today and some of us every day, not because we love babies but because we know our need to be saved. We know our need to be saved from doubt or despair or depression; from jealousy or anger or rage; from panic or prejudice or presumption; from fear or fantasies or failures; from what we do or say or feel about others, and sometimes what we do or say or feel about ourselves. We are here today because at some time or another, at one moment or another each one of us recognized our need of a saviour. We discovered we could not do it alone and it was at that moment the heavens were torn open and we found ourselves terrified like those shepherds listening to the song of the angels who brought “good news of great joy for [us and] all people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
We are here today on this Feast of the Mother of God, not to remember a baby, but to remember our need and to discover that the God whose name is unpronounceable, unspeakable and ultimately unknowable, is the same God who comes to us in the person of Jesus who knows us, and loves us and ultimately saves us.
Today is a day to remember, at the beginning of a new year, that his passionate desire to come into my heart continues today and every day of my life.
Our call to discipleship in return includes these three aspects. First, discipleship means prayer and reflection on the events of our lives that we might see God’s presence and work in our lives. Second, discipleship means obedience to God and God’s will. Third, discipleship includes fidelity to a community of faith.
Looking back, we can move forward, praising the name of Jesus who invites us to be servants of his own mission this new year.