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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Luke 2:1–7]

IN those days a decree went forth from the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, commanding that all the people of the empire should be enrolled. Each one had to give in his name “in his won city,” i. e. in the tribe and city to which he belonged. So Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem (Fig. 63), the city of David, because they were of the family of that king.

 

Fig. 63. Bethlehem. (Phot. Bruno Hentschel, Leipzig)

 

Fig. 64. Church of the Nativity and Convent at Bethlehem.

But the city being crowded with strangers who had come for the enrolment, they could not obtain lodging in the inn, and were forced to seek shelter in a stable outside the city. “And it came to pass that, when they were there, Mary brought forth her first-born Son, and wrapped Him up in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Divine Providence. The Prophet Micheas (Old Test. LXX) had foretold that the Saviour would be born at Bethlehem. But how was it likely that this prophecy would be fulfilled, seeing that she who was chosen to be the Mother of the Divine Saviour dwelt at Nazareth? The Providence of God directed that the pagan emperor of Rome should order all his subjects to be enrolled, and that this decree should be executed in Judæa at the very time when the Birth of the Redeemer was at hand. Obedient to authority, Mary and Joseph journeyed to Bethlehem to inscribe their names in the city from which originated their royal race, and thus, unwittingly, the Roman emperor was made to take a part in the fulfilment of the prophecy that the Redeemer would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David.

 

Fig. 65. Grotto of the Nativity in the Church at Bethlehem.

The Divinity of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is true Man, born of the Virgin Mary, the child of Mary, the son or descendant of David. But He is also true God, the Son of the Highest, as was announced to the Blessed Virgin by the angel. He shows Himself to our sight as Man, for in the crib we can see nothing but a little child. But He reveals Himself as God to our hearing, for His angels come and announce that this little Child in the crib is the Saviour, Christ the Lord Himself. Therefore let us fall on our knees before the crib, and adore the Child there, saying: “I believe in Jesus Christ, His (the Almighty Father’s) only Son, our Lord.”

The love of God. The Eternal Son of God became Man, and hid His Omnipotence and Majesty under the form of a poor, helpless child. He, the Lord, took the form of a servant, and became like to us in all things, sin only excepted. Why did He become Man? Why did He suffer and die? Why did He wish to redeem us? It was because He loved us with an infinite and divine love. “God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son &c.” (John 3:16). “Let us therefore love God, because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Christmas. According to tradition our Lord was born in the night between the 24th and 25th of December. Christmas, or the Nativity of our Lord, is therefore kept on the 25th of December, and on this great Feast three Masses may be said by each priest.

The sufferings of Jesus began with His Birth. The Son of God became Man to suffer for us, to make satisfaction for our sins, and to redeem us from sin and hell. All His life He suffered unspeakably for us, and His sufferings began with His Birth. He came into the world in a state of the utmost poverty and humility. For the Son of God to take to Himself human nature at all would have been an infinite humiliation, even had He been born in a royal palace, and laid at His Birth on silken cushions, in a golden cradle. But He wished to humble Himself still more, and therefore was born into the world in a poor stable, and laid in the rudest of cribs. The Lord of the universe, the son of David, of whose kingdom there was to be no end, could find no home in the. city of David! Shut out from the dwellings of man, rejected by human society, He was driven to find a refuge among the beasts, and, wrapped in the coarsest of swathing bands, was laid in a manger belonging to the shepherds. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). He had no comfortable little bed, no soft, warm pillow. His tender body lay on the hard straw, in a narrow crib, and was exposed to the damp, raw winter-air. A piece of wood at His Birth, and a piece of wood at His Death, that was all that Jesus received from this world! Truly the Divine Infant was poorer than the poorest child! Our Lord chose for Himself this extreme poverty and humility to make satisfaction even from His Birth for our many sins of pride, for our concupiscence of the eyes and of the flesh, and to give to us an example of humility, self-denial and mortification. Man fell by pride, desiring what was impossible, namely to be as God, and his fall was so deep that he fell into the bondage of Satan and the concupiscence of the eyes and of the flesh, and into sins and crimes of the basest description. In order to free us from sin and hell, God the Son became Man, and was like to us in all things, sin only excepted, so that we might become once more the children of God. He humbled Himself that we might be exalted. He became poor that we might be rich in grace here, and richer still some day in heaven. Let us thank Him as we kneel before His crib, and renounce all pride, all avarice, and fleshly desires!

APPLICATION. Jesus, your Saviour, is so humble, poor and patient, and yet how proud, covetous and impatient you are!








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