Magnificat anima mea, Dominum
It is the eve of Christmas in the year of Our Lord two thousand four. The star of Bethlehem still shines on the hearts of people of good will. The child still draws us to the creche, as the shepherd boys and wise men were drawn so long ago.
I am a Catholic, by the grace of God and not of my own merit. Still, my will and my spirit are set on Christ and there you have it. I will go to my grave a Catholic simply because that child, born of Mary, a long time ago called me into a continuing relationship with Him. It is my great joy.
Like Mary, I can only reply to the call of grace, that my soul magnifies my Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. And when I have gone to my death (and rebirth, for such he has promised to all of us who believe in Him), I will stand before the judge of judges and plead not justice, but mercy. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He will hear me and will be merciful. You see, He loves me and His nature is mercy itself, .... and my sins will be as far as the east is from the west.
His mercy generates in me equal amounts of relief, humility, sorrow and joy. Relief that I can start afresh in the love of Christ. Humility in knowing that I do not really deserve the forgiveness granted, sorrow that I continue to inflict pain on my Saviour by my failure to turn my will completely to Him, and joy ... knowing that in spite of it all God loves me.
Still, Christmas is not so much the time to reflect on our weaknesses but to marvel that the Lord God of Hosts humbled Himself to become a tiny infant born in a stable, like us in all things except sin (as we all were meant to be, before that unfortunate dalliance with the apple in the garden.)
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.
New American Bible - Excerpt from the Gospel of St. Luke