REFLECTION | The Shepherds visit the Manger: ‘Ponder on the true gift of Christmas’

Reflection file photo by Bernard Testa/InterAksyon.

Reflection file photo by Bernard Testa/InterAksyon.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them. When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
—Luke 2:16-21

The new calendar starts. The  new year commences, it is 2017. January 1 is the octave of Christmas (the 8th day after the birth of Jesus Christ) and the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Theotokos).

On this day, Mary’s role in the salvation narrative is highlighted as she is being honored and venerated as the Mother of God, the mother of Jesus, the son of God the Father. Though, in the Gregorian calendar that the whole world is following, it is the first day of a new year, the first day of the year. On this day, the Church honors Mary for her role in the salvation story of humankind.

“The title “Mother of God” is a fundamental title of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the one that gave rise to all her other titles along centuries. Mary’s Divine Motherhood is based on the Scriptures. These bear witness that Mary is the Mother of the Son of God because the fruit of her womb is a Divine Person: Jesus.

In order for God to come into this world, the Son of God became man through the womb of a woman. The Son of God will be the “Son of Mary” (Mark 6:3, see Matthew 13:55, John 6:42).  In 431, the Council of Ephesus defended the teaching of one Person with two natures in Christ and approved the title of Mother of God in reference to Mary. In 451, the Council of Chalcedon officially promulgated the normative decision set forth at Ephesus. (Anthony Buono, The Greatest Marian Titles:  their History, Meaning, and Usage. St. Paul’s, 2008. pp. 125- 129).

In our gospel account, the shepherds found Mary and Joseph with baby Jesus lying in the manger.  The baby was named Jesus as what the angel Gabriel told Mary. The shepherds told what the angels had told them; they were all astonished about the baby who is the savior of the world. The shepherds visited the newly born messiah.

Visitations is a normal experience for everyone. We normally visit our friends in their homes during events and on occasions when we really need to meet our friends. We also visit those whom we consider in need, those who are in hospitals, hospices, or in prison areas.

To visit is to make the person important and cared for. Let us visit people who are our friends or even strangers for they are God’s dearest.

In the gospel, the shepherds visited the manger and became the first witnesses of God’s tender love for us. And after they received glad tidings, the shepherds returned to where they came from, praising as they gave glory to God for what they had seen and heard and from what the angels had told them.

Today, let us visit those who want to feel God, those who want see God, and let us be touched by what we had witnessed in the beautiful story of God becoming man.

While Mary at the same time treasured what she saw and heard and pondered on them, together with Joseph, the husband of Mary, the foster father of the savior.

As we start a new year, it is good for us to hold on to the gifts and blessings of Christmas as God’s love is incarnated in the birth of Jesus, His only son.

Let us reflect on the significant role of Mary and Joseph in our love story with God.  The life of Mary is an epitome of a disciple who listens and keeps the Word of God. Mary did not just listen to the message of God but had also lived her life following the will of the Lord.

Likewise, we also have other models—the shepherds. We can be the modern shepherds of today who shall praise the Lord for He is our only hope, our glory and our salvation. Becoming shepherds of our contemporary times, let us care and nourish each other by opening our hearts and homes to those who need love and care, especially the victims of violence and killings, of hatred and stigma, of wars and destructions. Like the Good Shepherd, let us shepherd them.

We are invited to ponder on the life Mary and be inspired by her on our journey to God.  Mary was an obedient servant to her Master (God), a perfect model for us Christians who should be obedient to God.

We are invited to be like Mary who kept and pondered the Word whole heartedly.  Let us also listen intently and keep in our hearts the word of God that we read from the Scriptures, from the faith-life experiences of peoples and from the signs of or times.  We ask God’s wisdom, knowledge and understanding just like Mary who kept the message and pondered in her heart.

Let us pause and pray to God for a peaceful, fruitful and meaningful 2017.

Almighty and Loving God, may we listen to your will like Mary so that we can respond appropriately and responsibly as your faithful followers.    May we praise you in glory like the shepherds who thanked you for your saving act of love in this new year of hope and opportunities so we may become credible witnesses of your love.  This we ask through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

In this new year 2017, let us thank the Lord for the many blessings we received and continue to receive and enjoy; let us also entrust to God our intentions and wishes for the entire year. Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year everyone!