Today is a day of joy for all the Christians, and indeed for the whole world: “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God” (first Reading, Isaiah c. 52). We celebrate a great mystery: God decided to be “born of a woman” (Gal 4:4), like all of us, to save us not through his divine power but by taking up our human and weak condition. Everything started in a humble way, at Bethlehem, so that nobody should feel excluded. Nobody feels judged or threatened by a child: on the contrary, a little baby always attracts our admiration and makes our heart smile.

God has placed his tent among us

In the journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, for 40 years God dwelt under a tent, just like all the people of Israel did. In today’s Gospel, John the evangelist uses the same expression to explain how the Word became flesh. A tent can easily be moved and then reset, when night approaches. Similarly, Christ continues to walk close to me, wherever the journey of my life leads me to. He folds his tent every morning and when evening comes, he unfolds it again. No matter where I happen to be, Jesus is always my companion. This, I believe, is also the God that Pope Francis teaches to us: a merciful God, a saviour that is close to us.

A season for gifts

Joseph and Mary accepted the gifts the shepherd offered to the Child. Those shepherds were living out of the town, and therefore could not attend all the celebrations in the temple. They were considered as unclean, second class believers. And yet Jesus welcomed their gifts: no gift is small, when it comes from a noble heart, a generous soul.

Jesus was born out of the city and was executed out of the city walls. There was no room for them in Bethlehem, and there was no place in the capital for him during the Passover festivals. Not welcomed at Christmas, not welcomed at Easter. We can understand the innkeeper of Bethlehem: they had no room for that family from the distant village of Nazareth, though Joseph was not a poor man: he was a carpenter, with a qualified and skilled job, well recognized in his place. But, because of the census, the guest houses were all booked. Surely, if the innkeeper suspected that couple to be the family of the Messiah, he would have found a solution, to ‘manage’ the emergency.

Even today, God does not disclose his identity: he may come to me any moment and knock on my door. He could be any neighbour that I meet, under any circumstance. But I am too busy, my daily and weekly agenda is already full, and there is no room for something new. And yet, whenever the Lord visits me, he brings joy to my heart. My life is made cheerful by the new people God sends to me every day.

Only the simple eyes of the shepherds can see, under the appearances of a child, the One whom the angels call Prince of peace. Expect the unexpected, be prepared.