So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. After eight days had passed, it was time to circumcise the child; and he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The story of the humble shepherds of Bethlehem coming to find Jesus in the manger wrapped in swaddling clothes already read at the Dawn Mass on Christmas Day. It is repeated today because of the feast we are celebrating the Holy Mother of God, the divine motherhood of Mary. It is the feast of Christmas again, the feast of the Incarnation and birth of our Saviour, but it is Mary’s part in this wonderful mystery of God’s love for us that is stressed.
There have been Christians who could see no importance in the part played by Mary in our redemption, yet is was God himself who chose her from all eternity for this role and it was God’s messenger at the Annunciation who proclaimed she was full of grace and that she was God’s special friend and the Lord was with her.
In today’s gospel, Luke told us that the humble shepherds searching for the Saviour whose birth that God had made known to them found Mary first, then Joseph and then the “babe lying in the manger”.
The ordering of Luke’s narrative stresses the importance of Mary’s role in the Incarnation, and the constant teaching of the Catholic Church ever since, we need have no fear of taking anything form the honour, glory and gratitude we owe to God. When we honour God, we first honour by making our Mother, the Virgin, the Mother of God’s Son.
Furthermore, we should remember that the last act of our Saviour before dying on the cross, was to make his Mother our Mother, through our representative St John the Evangelist, to whom he said: “behold thy Mother” (John 19:27). It would be disloyalty to Christ not to accept her as our Mother, and it would be disloyalty to the revealed word of God if we denied her divine maternity. God made her Mother of the Messiah, the Saviour, who was His divine Son.
Mary was, and is, a human creature, a mere human creature but a human creature selected by God to the mother of the Saviour’s human nature, the human nature his divine sonship assumed in order to redeem mankind and raise them up. It was through no merit of her own that Mary earned this dignity and this honour given to her was a sheer gift of God. She was the first to realise and declare this when she said God had “regarded the lowliness of his handmaid” (Luke 1:48). When we honour her therefore we are in fact and intention honouring and thanking God for the marvelous gifts and privilege He conferred on one of us.
God could have sent his Son on earth without the help of a human mother. However, He chose to make the Son “like unto us in all things except sin” and as man he was born of a human mother, “born of a woman,” as St Paul puts it. That woman was Mary ever Virgin, she was God’s privileged handmaid. And when we honour that privilege of hers we are honouring the loving condescension of God who not only deigned to send us his Son to be our Saviour, but deigned that he should be born of one of our own weak human nature to whom he had given and continued to give the necessary grace.
Therefore, today we thank our God for the Incarnation, for the honourable part God gave to “one of us” to play in that drama of divine love. May we ever be worthy of God’s gifts of infinite love to us. Amen.