Tonight, as we gather to celebrate the birth of a seemingly unknown child, born over 2000 years ago to poor parents in a stable in the insignificant city of Bethlehem, I can’t help but ask myself what is it about this child that has captivated the hearts of most of humanity for over 2000 years. Regardless of where we find ourselves, we seem to pause year after year to come and adore this little child in the manger. We come on this night because God determined that He would give His very self to us as a gift. Tonight “God is no longer separated from us by the iron curtain of His inaccessible other worldliness; He has crossed the dividing line to become one of us.” “For Christmas says to us, amid all our doubts and bewilderment: God exists … as One who is able to be concerned about us; He is such that everything we are and do lies open to His gaze. But that gaze is the gaze of love.” Tonight as we gather before the manger, we are reminded that Jesus is not simply a figment of our imagination, He became man and walked this earth living in a specific time and place to bring us from slavery to freedom.
Tonight the world stands still in the midst of two extremes. At one end we have humanity enslaved by its own sinfulness and lost in the darkness which results from it, and at the other, humanity free and empowered by God’s grace to worship and serve Him and thus enjoy eternal happiness with Him. Tonight we celebrate that turning point in history because the angels proclaim, a Savior is born for us, who is Christ the Lord. That’s the story that our Catholic Church has been passing down uninterrupted for 2,000 years from those who witnessed it all first hand, to the earliest martyrs, to the great saints, to all the baptized. And we here today, tell it yet again. It is this story which is the reason for our Church, for our being here. The story of God, the Almighty Creator of all things, the Supreme Being – taking to Himself the nature of one of His lowly creatures: becoming man. It’s a story which any reasonable person could easily recognize as simply too incredible to be true. Yet as people of faith we know that what we celebrate tonight isn’t just another story, some myth, or fairy tale, but truly history. – Salvation history.
As people of faith we know that God truly did become man. And that the great event which we celebrate tonight looks forward to an even greater Feast; the Feast of His Resurrection on Easter. For God became man not only to teach us and to inspire us but primarily to save us. He was conceived in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary and was born in the manger of Bethlehem, to die for us and in dying to destroy Satan’s age-old grip of sin, so that in rising He might empower us to truly live as He created us to live. But that saving story is not just a story of history, no that story traces right down to our own day, where the power of Christ’s death and resurrection is given even to us every time we attend Mass. You see when we come to Mass our lives are swept up into this great drama. While this story continues to play out in our lives that we know the ending of this story, and we know that it’s a happy one. That those who, by the power of God’s grace, worship and follow Christ in this life will spend eternity with Him in the next life.
Tonight as we gather before the manger Jesus gazes on us and we gaze on Him. As that child gazes on us, He sees a reflection of His own image and wills to save each and every one of us. He begs each and every one of us not only to believe in Him, but truly to follow Him, through whatever joys or troubles life may give us. For the story which we celebrate today is the beginning of our story; the story of our salvation. Because on that first Christmas, the whole history of the world was turned on its ear and our lives can never truly be the same for we no longer have to walk in the darkness of our sins because that chubby little baby that was born is truly our God and He has come to save us. That gaze of the innocent child begs us to come near and know the peace and joy that comes from having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That gaze of Christ begs us to come and rediscover Him.
Tonight, as we visit that child lying in a manger, who do we gaze our eyes upon? Do we recognize Him to be the Son of God, the savior of the world, our Savior, the one who comes to have a relationship with us? Can we allow ourselves to be made simple by the God who reveals himself to the simple of heart? Can we allow even the darkest areas of our heart to be transformed by the power of His love? Tonight then, Jesus gazes on us and we gaze on Him. His gaze invites us to set out on a lifelong path of rediscovering Him, of starting anew in our relationship with Him. Come then, let us behold Him, let us come and find Him in the manger, be transformed and then leave and like the angles on Christmas night depart and spread the message of Christ’s coming into our hearts and indeed the whole world.
 Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg. 333.
 Ratzinger, Joseph Cardinal. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg. 338.