Well, if you haven’t guessed yet, I love the Nativity. I love the Manger. I love everything about it. And I wrote in the introduction to my book, a story from childhood. I remember setting up the Nativity scene. There was one Christmas when my father helped to build this new Manger under the tree. And so, the Manger was built, and I got some straw and put some straw in there, and I began to unwrap all of the different Nativity figures, and I placed them in one by one: the sheep, the ox, the ass, all the animals and Mary and Joseph. Then I was about to place Jesus into the middle, and I placed baby Jesus there, and one of my sisters came up, and she grabbed him out of there and said, “No, He doesn’t belong there yet.”
And I remember looking down at that empty spot, and even the animals looked confused, just like looking at the ground. And I was thinking, like, ‘Where is He?’ It started to make me think of my own life, that sometimes there is a void in our lives, there is a void in our hearts. There is a place where Jesus wants to come to be born in us this Christmas.
And so, I want you to think about that for yourselves. What is the emptiness in your heart? What is that place in your heart that you’ve not been able to fill with all the things that we have to fill on this earth? What is that void? Because it’s in that void that Christ wants to come this Christmas. It’s in that emptiness that he wants to come to you. And so, it’s so good that we realize this.
A couple of years ago, we had a living Nativity at one of the parishes I was allowed to do it at, and now I can have them whenever I want. In one of the parishes, we had a living Nativity there, and everybody was there all the characters. We even had a real baby Jesus. And Mary was holding baby Jesus, and I was there watching, and one of my nephews tugged at my pants like this. And he goes, “Uncle Mike,” and I said, ‘Yeah?” He asked, “Is that the real baby Jesus?” And I didn’t answer him right away, and I started reflecting on that later, and I thought if that is a baptized person, that’s a baptized boy, a child of God, then that is Jesus for the world today, that Jesus comes to us and He gives us His presence at baptism. When we were baptized, we became so united with Jesus that we would enter into what is called the Pascal Mystery: His life, His suffering, His death, and His resurrection.
So, we all enter into that today. It is just a week before Christmas, and we are still preparing our hearts, and what I would like you to do, as I mentioned before, is to reflect on that emptiness. Where in my life or how in myself do I feel empty? There’s an emptiness that only God can fulfill. So, it’s good for us to know that emptiness because that is where Christ wants to be born into our lives.
We hear in both the readings, in the first reading and in the Gospel, the prophet Isaiah saying that “this will be a sign for you. That there will be a child born to a Virgin mother.” We have this sign for us already, the sign that Christ is going to be born into our lives.
So, there’s this song that I have been listening to for the last couple of weeks, and it’s one that I play over and over, and it’s helped me really feel the presence of God within me. And so, we are going to play this song for you, and I invite you to close your eyes and try to take in that word that God is with us. That’s what we hear in the gospel and the first reading: Emmanuel, God is with us. He wants to fill that void. He wants to fill that emptiness. So, be in touch with that void. Listen to this song. But then, when you come forward to communion, ask Him to fill whatever that void is so that you can be completely whole, and this Christmas, we can truly receive God into our lives. Close your eyes for a moment and listen to this meditative song.