St. John Paul II said at the beginning of his first Christmas message as pope: “Christmas is the feast of humanity.”
It is a beautiful expression and it brings us to the heart of the joyful mystery we celebrate.
Jesus Christ was one of many children born in the world on that first Christmas Day. He was one of the billions of babies who have been born ever since the world began.
It is interesting that at the time when Jesus was born, the government was taking a census. “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled … So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.” The census is a curious detail in the Christmas story. I think this detail is meant to remind us how ordinary his birth was. He was just another child born to another working couple in an unnoticed corner of the Roman Empire. Jesus is a statistic, a number enrolled in the census. In fact, his family is so insignificant, they cannot even find room at the local inn; so their Child has to be born in a manger.
Jesus came into this world just like you did and just like I did — he spent nine months in the womb of his mother and was born into a human family.
But there is nothing ordinary about Christmas.
Jesus descends from a long line of people but he also comes down from heaven as the Son of God. Born at a moment when people were being counted by political authorities, Jesus shows us that every life “counts” and is precious in the eyes of God.
At Christmas we go with the shepherds to seek the Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.
And in this Child that we find in the manger on Christmas Day, we find the meaning of our lives. In the face of this Child, we see the face of God. But we see something more. We see ourselves. We see who we are, and see who we are made to be.
That is why Christmas is the “feast of humanity.”
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