Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Saturday, December 24, 2016
Praying “Gloria, In Excelsis”
The Christmas narrative from the Gospel of Luke is so familiar. Mary and Joseph enrolling for a census in Joseph’s ancestral town. Since it was the time of the census, the town was crowded to bursting. Mary was greatly pregnant, and while she was in Bethlehem, labor pains started. She and Joseph found shelter in a stable, and put her newborn baby in a feeding trough, a manger.
Yes, the Nativity scene is a familiar way of retelling this story. But—how did Nativity scenes begin? We go back to 1223. According to St. Bonaventure’s biography, St. Francis of Assisi got permission from Pope Honorious III to set up a manger with hay and two live animals—an ox and an ass—in a cave in the Italian village of Grecio. He then invited the villagers to come gaze upon the scene while he preached about ‘the babe of Bethlehem.’ (Francis was supposedly so overcome by emotion that he couldn’t say ‘Jesus.’)”
Today, we focus on the shepherds abiding in their fields, and the angel alerting them about the birth of this super-special Baby. Starting at verse 10 of Luke 2: “10 But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: 11 to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah,[a] the Lord.’” The shepherds quickly go into town and find the Baby, and worship and adore Him.
God became human so that we might become divine. This is where the rubber hits the road for us, folks. It’s where Christmas can make a difference in our lives, where the transcendent enters our impermanence and transforms us into something that is more than we can ask or imagine.
Alleluia, amen. Gloria in excelsis Deo.
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