23/12/05 The Humility of Jesus’ Birth

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Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin
Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland

We often tend to think that Jesus was born in the humility of the manger by accident, because of the fact that uncaring innkeepers were not prepared to offer even a small corner of shelter to Mary and Joseph.  This may be true of the precise circumstances of that night, but the fact of the humility of his birth is not an accident.  It is something that belongs to the very nature of how God wishes to reveal himself in Jesus.

Jesus was never destined to be born in a palace or in comparative wealth and security.  He was born in humility because he came to reveal something of God himself to us, which shatters our concept and our way of thinking about God.  The God of power and might appears in our midst as a helpless child.  Instead of seeking God in the powerful signs of nature, as was the case with primitive societies, or in self centred power which is so often the case in our times, Jesus reveals a God who is born into humanity with no possessions, as a God with no personal pretensions, simply as Emmanuel, God who is with us, alongside us, as a God who fixes his abode among us.

If we understand the birth of Jesus in this way, then we have to take a hard look at the way we celebrate his coming.  We can only truly celebrate the birth of Jesus in humility through sharing the deeper gifts, the gifts of giving ourselves, of being alongside others with our time, our kindness, our patience, our thoughtfulness and our love and indeed where need be with a word of forgiveness.  They are the simple gifts.  But they are the one which change lives and relationships.  The quality of Christmas gifts must be measured not in the elegance of the external packing but in the way in which they involve a real reaching out from heart to heart, mirroring the God with us.